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Jean Baubérot

Subject Sociology » Sociology of Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The French Constitution defines France as a “ République laïque ,” a lay republic, and the French generally consider laicism to be a “French exception.” This aspect of singularity was recently reinforced with the passing of a law in March 2004 banning ostentatious religious signs in public schools. But it is impossible to simplify laicism in terms of this particular law. Laicism is also a possible means for relationships between the state, religion, society, and every human being. Such relationships can function only if there is flexibility and adaptability to all situations present in society. Classically, sociologists dealt with the notion of secularization as being the decline of the influence of religion on modern society. For example, according to Peter Berger, secularization is “the process by which the sectors of society and culture are freed from the authority of religious institutions and symbols.” Nowadays, not only is it obvious that the decline is incomplete (for Berger, the turning point of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries was “furiously religious”), but also such a notion of secularization can be criticized as being too broad. For a better understanding, a distinction can be made between two long-term sociohistoric processes, a cultural process of secularization and a political process of laicization. When the cultural process of secularization is predominant ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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