“The Global Resurgence of Religious and Nationalistic Ideologies”
Dr Alexander Görlach
Affiliate Professor, Harvard University College
Dr Paul Hedges
Studies in Inter-Relations in Plural Societies (SRP) Programme, RSIS
In many parts of the world, divisive politics have resurfaced. They mostly employ an ethnic and religious narrative for their approach. For example, the Indian governing party hails the nation as a Hindu state; Vladimir Putin seeks consolation in the Russian-Orthodox Church to fight a decadent West; and the Turkish leadership defines the essence of the former secular republic as Ottoman and Muslim. Meanwhile, in Western democracies, the “us versus them” rhetoric is back in vogue and to a certain extent, responsible for both the outcome of the Brexit referendum, as well as the 2016 US Presidential Election result. In France, the electorate fought off Marie Le Pen and her right-wing exclusive narrative. In Germany, however, a right wing party is in the national parliament after having garnered more than ten percent of the votes for the first time since the end of WWII.
What to make of this “us versus them” rhetoric? “Scapegoating” has been examined widely by cultural anthropologist and philosopher René Girard. His theory, embedded in the context of religion and violence, may illuminate today’s developments. In addition, Max Weber, in his Sociology of Religion, describes some mechanisms that also shed light on today’s geopolitics. As the underlying patterns are universal, it is not one religion or one country that indulges in segregation and exclusion. Rather, these phenomena appear to stem from what the scholastics would term the “condition Humana”.
About the Speaker:
Dr Alexander Görlach is an Affiliate Professor with the F. D. Roosevelt Foundation’s In Defense of Democracy Program at Harvard University College. Prior to that, Dr Görlach was a visiting scholar at both Harvard Divinity School and Harvard’s Center for European Studies. He is also a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, a fellow at the Centre for the Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a senior advisor to the Berggruen Institute, a think tank in Los Angeles. In addition, he has been guest lecturing at National Taiwan University and City University of Hong Kong in the academic year 2017-2018.
Dr Görlach holds PhDs in linguistics and comparative religion. In his work, he focuses on narratives of identities and their influence on policymaking. He also looks into concepts of identity, liberal democracy, populism, secularism, pluralism and cosmopolitanism.
Alexander Görlach is the founding publisher of the debate magazine The European, and its editor-in-chief from 2009 to 2015. Currently, he is the publisher of the online magazine www.saveliberaldemocracy.com, an op-ed contributor to The New York Times, Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Die Zeit, and a columnist in German business magazine Wirtschaftswoche.