Ph.D. thesis submitted to the Department of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science (2012)
ABSTRACT: This thesis conceptually and empirically explores how American foreign policy is changing under the domestic and international pressures brought about by social and cultural processes associated with the global resurgence of religion. It argues that in response to these pressures the American foreign policy establishment, and American diplomatic, foreign assistance and national security practices and institutions are gradually undergoing, since the end of the Cold War and especially following September 11, processes of “desecularization”.
In order to explain these foreign policy changes, this thesis develops a Historical Sociological (HS) approach to Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA). This theoretical framework allows investigating the complex causal mechanisms that have led to the emergence of “desecularizing actors” at the domestic American level, which are embedded or responding to macro-processes of religious resurgence at home and abroad. These desecularizing actors have mobilized at the micro-level to challenge at critical historical junctures what they perceive is the problematic secular character of American foreign policy intellectual traditions, state practices and policy-making structures. In order to advance their preferred inherently religious policy agendas, desecularizing actors have articulated a number of principled and strategic discourses, which enable them to successfully contest and renegotiate the boundaries between “the secular” and “the religious” in American foreign policy.This thesis draws from ongoing conceptual debates in the sociology of religion on desecularization and applies this concept to that of a state’s foreign policy. It unpacks how processes of desecularization have taken place at multiple levels and with different intensities across the American foreign policy apparatus.
The thesis identifies two broad processes that relate to foreign policy desecularization. First, processes of “counter- secularization” in terms of a growing entanglement between functionally differentiated American secular state practices and policy-making structures, and religious norms and actors. Second, processes of “counter-secularism” in terms of a progressive weakening of dominant secular epistemic, ideological, and normative ideational constructs among American policy-makers.