Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Law, Sociology, and Religion: An Awkward Threesome"

Grace Davie, Law, Sociology, and Religion: An Awkward Threesome, Oxford Journal of Law & Religion (2011) pp. 1-13.

This short article is an attempt to help bridge the gap between lawyers and sociologists when it comes to religion. As Davie notes, "Lawyers and sociologists are differently trained and ask different questions about religion, as indeed about everything else. They do not always listen to each other." (p. 1) Davie goes on to discuss, in a very broad and somewhat meandering way, three topics of interest to both lawyers and sociologists in the field of religion: constitutional issues, human rights, and family law/end of life concerns, all presented in a European context.

The main thesis of the article--that law is a reflection of, and often influenced by, broader social issues, is one that is as true as it is (or should be) obvious. However, the article is useful in its insightful discussion of some more specific issues. For example, on the suppression of Muslim women wearing veils in France, Davie explains:

"In France, an egalitarian approach strongly encourages assimilation into French culture, with the entirely positive goal that all citizens should enjoy similar rights. This leads in turn to a mistrust of alternative loyalties and their outward expression—whether to religion or to anything else. It follows that in France ‘communautarisme’ is a pejorative word, implying a less than full commitment to the nation embodied in the French state." (p. 8-9)

Overall, however, although well-intentioned, I don't see this article enjoying much success in persuading lawyers and sociologists to give more creedence to each other's discipline.

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