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Religion and Modernity

5. Multiple Modernities

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In this module, we think about whether there is a universal narrative of religion and modernity, and especially whether the European story of secularisation can be applied to other contexts. We focus on: (i) the argument that modernisation is a contextual process which will produce different models of modernity in different parts of the world; (ii) the related notion that secularisation was a product only of the European model; (iii) Shmuel Eisenstadt’s concept of “multiple modernities” and its challenge to conventional understandings of modernity grounded in the European Enlightenment; (iv) the issue of defining modernity without relying on the traditional European narrative.


In this course, Professor Grace Davie (University of Exeter) considers the relationship between religion and modernity. In the first module, we clarify the meaning of the term “modernity”. In the second and third modules, we look at the different trajectories of religion in Europe and the USA, noting that whereas in Europe modernisation entailed secularisation, in the US religion and modernity have been mutually reinforcing. The fourth module explores changes to modernity in the late-twentieth century, how they influenced religion, and whether the terms “late modernity” and “post modernity” are useful in characterising them. In the fifth module, we interrogate whether there is a universal narrative of religion and modernity through Shmuel Eisenstadt’s notion of “multiple modernities”, before concluding with Professor Davie’s thoughts on this question in the final module.


Professor Grace Davie is Professor Emeritus in Sociology at the University of Exeter. She is a leading sociologist of religion and has written widely on religion in the modern world. Her publications include Religion in Public Life: Levelling the Ground (2017), Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox (2015), and The Sociology of Religion: A Critical Agenda (2013).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Davie, G. (2021, October 06). Religion and Modernity - Multiple Modernities [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Davie, G. "Religion and Modernity – Multiple Modernities." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 06 Oct 2021,

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