The College of Sociology is an online forum set up to revive the research interests of the College de Sociologie, founded in Paris in 1937 and dissolved in 1939 due to disruption by the war.
The College de Sociologie was an informal reading group promoting "Sacred Sociology, implying the study of all manifestations of social existence where the active presence of the sacred is clear".
Examples range from formal religious ceremonies to riots and raves.
Sacred Action: what mainstream politics can learn from religious groups about political engagement
The College of
Sociology’s Editor, Timothy Stacey, was recently invited to the PIDOP
International Conference on Civic and Political Engagement. PIDOP is a
large-scale, three-year project measuring the factors contributing to and
restricting civic and political engagement in Europe. The project fails to
mention religion as either a contributing or restricting factor. Timothy Stacey
explained the importance of religion as a contributing factor. Below is the abstract
with a few accompanying slides:
The last fifteen years has
not been a great time for liberal democracy. Despite the mitigated realignment
of politics around the centre-left we have simultaneously seen amongst the most
disadvantaged a radical disengagement with mainstream politics.
The loss of meaning on the
part of mainstream politics, and the consequent disconnect with real people as
they live their lives has been relatively unexplored by academics, although it
has been widely observed by think-tanks, politicians and journalists.
It is clear from an historical look at voter turnout records and party
But the answer from
mainstream parties too quickly becomes to seek new and more efficient ways to
engage people with the same politics.
Increasingly it borrows from the market techniques for doing this. There is a
failure to see anything inherent to the system that undermines engagement.
On the other hand religious
groups have never stopped in their sole purpose of making meaning happen for
people as they live their lives. This paper explores religious groups in the
hope of finding pathways to a new politics. It explores how religious groups
engage their core membership, the extent to which that membership is
politically engaged, and which political bodies have best engaged religious
groups until now.
For think-tanks see Jenny Bristow 2001; Tom Bentley 2005. For politicians see
Douglas Carswell 2005; Hazel Blears 2008. For journalists see especially the
website of the London paper The Guardian:
See especially Phillip Gould’s The
Unfinished Revolution (1999) in which focus groups are shown to align
policy towards the opinion of the most influential voters; Mark Penn’s Microtrends (2008) which details the
move of politics away from mass organizing towards collective goods and towards
polling undecided voters in swing states; and Douglas Carswell’s Direct Democracy (2005), which looks to
bring referenda to local matters.