AAlthough religion once occupied a central position both in sociological theory and in the writings of the 'founding fathers' of sociology, subsequently the subject lost its significance. As a consequence of the widespread acceptance of the secularist paradigm, sociological studies of religion became marginalised as did the branch of sociology promulgated after WWII; religion and the sociology thereof were simply condemned to extinction. However, the worldwide religious revival of the late 20th century changed the situation altogether. Religion and spirituality as well as - albeit to a much lesser degree - the sociologies thereof have become topics of discussion within general sociological thought. The author describes and analyses the development of the sociology of religion in the second half of the 20th century. He maintains that 'behind' the two grand paradigms - i.e. the secularisation and rational choice theories - different approaches exist, impacted by national academic traditions and other factors. Multi-paradigmatical approaches, an emphasis on ethnographical research and adoption of a 'humanistic' perspective form common themes in the contemporary sociology of religion, especially in Europe; the Czech and Slovak sociologies of religion are no exception. Unfortunately, the sociological mainstream still devotes little attention to such developments, while the sociology of religion itself is rather closed to (post-) modern theories, including those dealing with religion. The central position in recent sociological thought is thus occupied by a specific subject - various forms of religion and spirituality - rather than by any special theories, methods or knowledge accumulated by sociologists of religion.
Zdenek R. Nespor, Sociologicky ustav AV CR, Jilska 1, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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