Book Review: General Politics: Faith in Politics: Religion and Liberal Democracy

Date01 September 2012
AuthorSarbeswar Sahoo
Published date01 September 2012
Subject MatterBook Review
starvation levels than even existed at the start of the
twentieth century.Poor countries worry that they have
too many people, while rich countries worry that they
do not have enough people.An ever growing number
of people seek to migrate to wealthier or more tolerant
countries in order to escape deprivation or political
oppression. Many scholars worry about the impact of
population growth on the resources and environmental
conditions that we are leaving behind for future gen-
erations. At the same time, advances in biomedical
science mean that prospective parents have more
control over both their ability to conceive and their
ability to prevent the conception of children with
undesirable traits.
Given these developments, it is sur prising that so
little work has been done on the normative and
policy implications of demographic change. This
volume, the latest in a distinguished ser ies, represents
an impressive attempt to advance our understanding
of this important and intriguing subject. The editors
have brought together some of the leading scholars in
the f‌ield to examine the following topics: the reasons
for, and the implications of, giving prior ity to actual
lives over potential lives; whether an action can be
wrong if no actual person is adversely affected; the
criteria for determining an ideal population size;
whether rights should be assigned to future genera-
tions; how resources should be distributed between
age groups; the implications of a changing age struc-
ture for welfare policy; how we should understand
the status of caregivers given the ageing of the popu-
lation in aff‌luent societies; the ethical problems raised
by advances in biomedical technology, in particular,
whether there are legitimate grounds for placing
restrictions on reproductive freedom; the rights and
responsibilities of immigrants and host countries; and,
f‌inally, the normative arguments for and against
placing restrictions on freedom of exit and entry.
Each chapter typically reviews the current state of the
debate before moving on to advance a particular
argumentative position. As a result the book is both
accessible to the uninitiated and valuable to the ini-
tiated. Overall, it represents an excellent resource for
political philosophers, population theorists and policy
Simon Wigley
(Bilkent University, Ankara)
Faith in Politics: Religion and Liberal Democ-
racy by Bryan T. McGraw. Cambridge: Cambr idge
University Press, 2010. £14.99, 328pp., ISBN 978 0
521 13042 4
The Political Origins of Religious Liberty by
Anthony Gill. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2008. £19.99, 270pp., ISBN 978 0 521 61273 9
Religion has historically been at the centre of people’s
understanding of their lives as well as the world and it
has provided divine legitimacy to political authority.
The occurrence of religious wars in Europe in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, however, resulted
in the decline of the public and political role of reli-
gion in modern society. Modernisation theorists also
predicted that, with the advancement of science and
technology, religion’s signif‌icance in society will
decrease, leading to thorough secularisation. The secu-
larisation thesis argued for the separation of the church
and the state and declared religion as incompatible
with the idea of modernity and democracy. However,
the recent resurgence of religion in the public and
political spheres and the increasing religious funda-
mentalism around the world has generated many ques-
tions about the role of religion in society and politics.
It is in this context that Bryan McGraw’s Faith in
Politics and Anthony Gill’s The Political Origins of Reli-
gious Liberty provide compelling and original insights
on the interaction between religion and politics in
modern society.
The central questions in McGraw’s book are: what
challenges does the recent religious resurgence pose
for liberal democracies around the world? Can liberal
democracies accommodate the political demands of
diverse religious groups in a peaceful manner? And can
these diverse religious groups contribute positively to
liberal democracy? It should be noted here that liber-
alism has always perceived religion as a threat.Scholar s
have argued that ‘religious nationalists’ (p. 6) pose dan-
gerous threats to liberal and democratic political order.
Contrary to this, McGraw argues that religious citizens
and political parties can and do positively contribute to
liberal democracy.Following the work of John Tomasi,
McGraw has identif‌ied three kinds of citizens on the
basis of their relationship to liberalism: (1) liberals,who
are fully committed to autonomy and individualism;
(2) theocrats, who are opposed to liberal democratic
claims; and (3) religious integrationists, who accept
© 2012 TheAuthors. Political Studies Review © 2012 Political Studies Association
Political Studies Review: 2012, 10(3)

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT