Quasi-Messianism and the disenchantment of politics

C.J. van Kersbergen

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The study of political religion has focused on how religious structure and substance came to permeate grand political ideologies such as fascism and communism. The relevance of various relatively veiled forms of religion in modern day-to-day democratic politics has been undervalued and we therefore fail to appreciate to what extent, and how religious structure and substance have also penetrated conventional democratic politics. As a result, we do not comprehend that it is the progressive abolition of "quasi-messianism" in politics that is currently causing the existential problem of democracy, namely massive political disaffection. Quasi-messianism concerned the visionary anticipation of a better world that is attainable, here and in the distant, yet foreseeable future. This promise accorded politics an enchanting quality. Quite down-to-earth political ventures got charged with an inspiring and imaginative sense of purpose, direction, and meaning, but equally with this-worldly catalysts, which, in contrast to the political-religious grand utopias, were operational and practical. In this quality, some mass political projects or elite missions developed a capacity to enchant the political elite and the public alike. Hence the thesis that it is the disenchantment of politics, which lies at the heart of the contemporary phenomenon of waning political allegiance. Copyright © Religion and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2009.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-54
JournalPolitics and Religion
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010


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