Theory platform B Differentiation

Changes in the relationship between religion and politics can be examined in an interdisciplinary manner by drawing on various theories on the differentiation of autonomous functional systems in society. Not least, the concept of secularization can be understood in terms of differentiation theory. Social differentiation means that, in the course of history, social distinctions develop in the constant transition brought about by events and upheavals, by innovations and setbacks, by repetitions and acts of forgetting, these distinctions remaining quite stable over a longer period of time and then becoming either difficult to reverse or simply neglected. What is meant here are institutional arrangements, social roles, discourses and practices that differentiate themselves by marking themselves off from each other. These borders are repeatedly the subject of conflicts and processes of negotiation, also between religion and politics.

The members of the Cluster of Excellence discuss intensively the extent to which theories of differentiation can serve as an interdisciplinary basis connecting the social sciences, law and history, and which of these theories are most helpful. While it is perhaps unrealistic to expect a cross-disciplinary consensus on these theories, it is nonetheless necessary to continue dealing with them and to develop them further – since they have played and still play such an important role for concepts of secularization.

Theory platform B Differentiation builds on research carried out in the past funding phase (2013-2018) as part of the then platform E Differentiation and de-differentiation.