I first argue that religion partakes of the symbolic order of the nation-state and that contemporary nationalisms are suffused with the religious. I then suggest that religious nationalism calls into question the theoretical duality of the social and the cultural, a divide variously identified with the material and the symbolic, class and status, economy and civil society. Religious nationalism, I suggest, requires an institutional approach to the project of collective representation. Religious nationalism offers a particular ontology of power, an ontology revealed and affirmed through its politicized practices and the central object of its political concern, practices that locate collective solidarity in religious faith shared by embodied families, not in contract and consent enacted by abstract individual citizens. Understanding the institutional basis of religious nationalist discourse allows us to understand its affinities with socialist politics. If religious nationalism derives from religion's institutional heterology with the capitalist market and the democratic state, then it suggests the limits of a social theory that occludes that heterology. In the remainder of the paper, I argue that religious nationalism cannot be adequately understood either through Pierre Bourdieu's theory of habitus and field, nor through Jeffrey Alexander's theory of civil society. Bourdieu's theory of fields imports the logic of dominant institutions and thereby culturally homogenizes the institutional diversity of contemporary society, making the stake of politics a culturally empty space of domination. Alexander's theory of civil society, while rich in cultural substance, identifies civil society with democratic political culture and thereby makes unnecessarily restrictive assumptions about the institutional sources of collective representation in modern society.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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