In This Review

Religion and Politics in the International System Today
Religion and Politics in the International System Today
By Eric O. Hanson
Cambridge University Press, 2006, 350 pp

The modern Western vision of international relations is built on secular assumptions about power, order, national interest, and the declining influence of religion on the "high politics" of state. Hanson argues that the influence of religion on global politics is growing and that, although extremist religious movements offer a disturbing glimpse of religion's potent impact, moderate communities of believers are creating new patterns of politics. Ironically, it is forces that the old secular global order unleashed -- globalized markets, international human rights, transnational civil society -- that have ignited the value struggles and opened the political doors through which religion has reentered the world arena. Most of the book is an extended survey of the complex ways in which Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist ideas, organizations, and practices influence political life, and Hanson is at his best when depicting various logics of church-state relations. His larger effort to articulate a new "post-Cold War paradigm" for understanding international affairs is unconvincing, but his more substantive theme is intriguing and hopeful: namely, that religions can play a positive role in promoting human dignity and reconciliation.