Religious Parties, Religious Political Identity, and the Cold Shoulder of Liberal Democratic Thought

Rosenblum, Nancy L.
March 2003
Ethical Theory & Moral Practice;Mar2003, Vol. 6 Issue 1, p23
Academic Journal
Elements of the relation between religion and politics are standard themes in political theory: toleration and free exercise rights; the parameters of separation of church and state; arguments for and against constraints imposed on religious discourse by philosophic norms of “public reason”. But religious parties and partisanship are no part of political theory, despite contemporary interest in “value pluralism” and in liberal democratic theory's capacity to address multicultural, religious, and ethnic group claims. This essay argues that religious parties are missing elements in discussions of “identity politics”. They play an important role not just in expressing but also in constructing and mobilizing religious political identity. Political activity linked to parties is a principal way of bringing diffuse, politically unorganized groups, whose leaders are self-appointed and not regularly accountable for the way they represent co-religionists in political life, into the democratic mainstream. With political organization and especially partisanship, the “fact of pluralism” is made concrete for democratic purposes.


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