The Other Secular Modern: an empirical critique of Asad

Steve Bruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Talal Asad explains the marginalization of religion in liberal democracies by invoking the modern state's desire to control. This paper argues that, in the Anglophone world, self-conscious secularism played little or no part in the secularization of public life. The expansion of the secular sphere was primarily an unintended consequence of actions by religious impositionists. Far from leading the promotion of the secular, the state had to be pressed by the demands of religious minorities to reduce the powers of established religion. The state provision of secular social services was usually a reaction to the inability of competing religious organizations to continue their provision. As this review of church–state relations in the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand shows, the reduction in the social power of religion owed more to the failure of Christians to agree than to a deliberately secularizing state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-92
Number of pages14
JournalReligion and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • ASAD
  • church-state relations
  • diversity
  • marginalization of religion


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