Secularization is the name given to the process described by some Sociology theorists that encompasses the gradual abandonment of religion and social organizations built on traditional foundations. Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim and Max Weber, three of the most important thinkers in modern sociology, believed that scientific progress and technological advancement made modern Western societies more dependent on science to explain and control their social world. Thus, secularization would constitute the gradual loss of relevance of religion in the various aspects of modern social life.
The sociological debate on the subject is still quite lively. On the one hand, there are those who defend the undeniable existence of the secularization process in the contemporary world. On the other side, there are those who argue that religious belief still has considerable weight for the modern subject and his relationships in the most diverse social spheres. A secularizationtherefore, it is a very complex subject and does not have a means of consensual assessment, which ends up frustrating most of the purely empirical approaches to the problem.
Max Weber He is the most remembered theorist when we talk about this topic. In one of his most famous works, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber addresses the topic in depth. For him, the period of modernity is marked by the incessant conflict between thinking based on instrumental reason, reason used as a tool to reach a certain end, and traditional religious thinking, which was gradually losing its relevance. Weber refers to this phenomenon as “the process of disenchantment of the world”process by which the modern subject gradually abandons customs and beliefs based on learned traditions and which were supported by the fixed pillars of religions or “magic”.
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O disenchantment of the world It occurred, according to Weber, due to the new socioeconomic order built in the capitalist system. Rational calculation became the main way of mediating the actions of the subject of this system, which, over time, infiltrated the other relationships of individuals. This process gained great momentum in the face of the enormous scale of production that the Industrial Revolution brought, the main point of the secularization process. Commercial relations became increasingly integral parts of social relations and required, to a large extent, the rationalization of subjects’ actions.
Although Weber’s observations are still significant in our reality, the processes related to secularization cannot be objectively analyzed. Therefore, discussions on the topic are still ongoing and new work in the area of religiosity still seeks to understand the various aspects involving the phenomenon of secularization.
By Lucas Oliveira
Graduated in Sociology