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Article

Shaun Bowler, Reagan Dobbs, and Stephen Nicholson

Direct democracy in the United States is the process whereby voters decide the fate of laws, through either an initiative or a referendum. Initiatives allow voters to approve or reject a policy proposal, whereas referendums permit voters to decide the fate of laws passed by the legislature. Although some high-profile ballot measures, especially those related to ‘moral’ issues, may induce people to vote, most ballot measures are unfamiliar to voters and so have a limited effect on participation. Rather than mobilizing voters, the more choice confronting voters faced with ballot measures is whether to “roll-off” or abstain from voting on them. The subsequent decision, how to vote, is intimately related to the decision over whether to vote and is largely motivated by the same factors. In deciding whether and how to vote, voters must know what a ballot measure is about, discern the political motivation underlying it, and match that information to their political predispositions to cast a Yes or No vote; otherwise they abstain. The more voters know about a given proposition, the more likely it is that they will vote and, furthermore, that the vote they do cast will reflect their underlying political values. In contrast both to the claims made by many critics of direct democracy and, also, some current studies in political science, votes in direct democracy are often underpinned by substantive, policy-based considerations. Voters are thus capable of meaningfully participating in the direct democracy process.

Article

Mark Bovens and Anchrit Wille

Educational level is one of the strongest factors in explaining how citizens behave in politics. Political scientists have shown time and again that the higher their level of formal education, the more people are interested in politics, the more they trust politicians, and the more they participate in politics. A strong educational gradient can be observed at almost every form of participation, and in many Western liberal democracies. Far less attention has been given to the political consequences of this gap in participation between the well- and the less-educated. In the 21st century, educational level has turned out to be a driver behind the rise of new social and political divides in Western democracies. Increasingly, education is studied separately from class or income as a source of political attitudes, political behavior, and social and political inequalities. It is a very relevant factor to understand the contours of the contemporary political landscape in consolidated Western democracies. Traditional cleavages are eroding, and rising levels of education have been creating new social groups and new political inequalities between educational groups. In many Western democracies, the well-educated have come to dominate democratic institutions. This rise of a political meritocracy has led to policy incongruences in favor of the well-educated and is a source of resentment among the lesser-educated. For example, education has been one of the main explanatory factors in the vote for Brexit, the support for Trump in the United States, and the election of Macron and the rise of the Yellow Vests movement in France.

Article

Christopher D. Raymond

A wide body of research has studied the impact of religious cleavages on electoral choice in a range of democracies. This research focuses on two types of religious cleavages. One type of religious cleavage is the confessional cleavage, which is a measure of the center-periphery cleavages. This type of cleavage is measured in surveys using indicators of respondents’ religious identities (e.g., Christian vs. Muslim [when one needs to distinguish between voters of different faiths], Catholic vs. Protestant [when one needs to distinguish between different denominations within the same broader faith], and Presbyterian vs. Methodist [when one needs to distinguish between different traditions]). The other type of religious cleavage is the clerical cleavage, which divides religious from secular (i.e., nonreligious) voters. Clerical cleavages are measured using either a measure of religious behavior (e.g., individuals’ frequency of attendance of religious services or frequency of prayer) or beliefs (e.g., whether and the degree to which one believes in the tenets associated with one’s religious identity). Where such cleavages are present, previous research shows that religious groups tend to vote for parties appealing to their votes, while religious voters behave differently from secular voters. A wide body of research also examines whether and how the effects of religious cleavages change over time. One line of research argues that the effects of religious cleavages on electoral choices change in response to changes in society and among individuals. For instance, as individuals and society as a whole become more secular, some research argues that religious cleavages impact electoral choices less than more religious societies where religion matters more to individuals. Additionally, as voters become more cognitively sophisticated, voters do not need to rely on religious cleavages, resulting in weaker religious effects on voting behavior. Another line of research argues that the effects of religious cleavages change in response to changes in the messages articulated by political parties: When parties compete on issues relevant to religious voters and maintain organizational ties to religious groups in society, the effects of religious cleavages on voting behavior will be strong; when parties deemphasize religious issues and reduce formal ties to religious organizations, the effects of religious cleavages will weaken. While research suggests both types of changes impact the effects of religious cleavages on electoral choices, more research is needed to determine the extent to which ties between parties and religious voters have weakened, especially after accounting for the impact of religious and parental socialization on the behavior of seculars, as well as the degree to which material satisfaction increases the salience of religious issues for religious voters.

Article

With a conservative party in power since 2002 that has its roots in the pro-Islamist movement, the influence of religiosity upon party choice has attracted a lot of attention in the literature on Turkish elections and voting behavior. However, this literature uses measures of religiosity that change from one study to another and hence diagnosing trends over time or assessments concerning the influence of religiosity remains challenging. This article aims to first review the findings concerning the effect of religiosity upon party choice in Turkey. Second, using the Turkish Election Studies data for four general elections in the 2002–2015 period a unified comparable framework is adopted to evaluate the changing nature of the influence of religiosity upon party choice. The findings reached suggest that religiosity remains a potent variable in shaping party choice. However, over time and across parties its influence varies. A sectarian divide between the Sunni majority and the Alevi minority also appears to be useful especially differentiating the left-leaning main opposition party. This sectarian divide also seems to be shifting over time.

Article

Eritrea has a long history as a heavily militarized nation, dating back to its 30-year war for independence from Ethiopia. Militarization is a core component of Eritrean nationalism and state formation, which is arguably forged out of war but is also implicated in Eritrea’s problematic human rights record. Following Eritrea’s 1991 independence, the country was poised to democratize and liberalize. At that time, the country also began an intensive process of nation-building of which militarization was a central part. In 1995, Eritrea introduced the national service program. Eritrea’s national/military service, which requires 6 months of military training and 12 months of free military or civil service for all Eritreans (male and female), initially enjoyed widespread public support although there were always concerns about harsh living and labor conditions. In 1998, a border war with Ethiopia broke out. At this time, those who had military training in national service were recalled. Although fighting ended in 2000, the border war deepened Eritrea’s adherence to militarization as a key strategy of national defense, nation-building, and development. A condition of no-peace, no-war followed the border war. The long period of no-war, no-peace with Ethiopia allowed Eritrea’s president, Isaias Afewerki, to consolidate his power, deepen authoritarian rule, and extend the national service program indefinitely. The indefinite extension of national service meant that conscripts were not demobilized and new recruits into national service could not be assured that they would ever be released. Due to the indefinite extension of military service, harsh conditions in the military, and extreme punishments for those who try to escape the military, Eritrea’s national/military service requirement is at the center of concern about human rights and civil liberties in Eritrea. Militarization has since become fused with state control and punishment, leading to human rights and civil liberties violations and the mass flight of close to half a million Eritreans over the past decades. Despite the announcement in summer of 2018 that Eritrea and Ethiopia had finally agreed to peace, no one has been released from the military and Eritreans continue to flood out of the country to avoid national service conditions which have been equated with slavery.

Article

Ethics, corruption, and integrity do matter for society and are relevant topics to take into account in the research (and practice) of public administration and governance. The many views, perspectives, and interpretations that are available with respect to these issues can be integrated in a challenging framework. This framework takes the concept of integrity of governance as a starting point, with a focus on relevant moral values and norms for political and administrative behavior and a discussion of various forms of integrity violations in the public sector. Based on a large amount of research on “what helps to protect integrity and prevent integrity violations,” it specially pays attention to integrity management and integrity systems. The framework concerning ethics, corruption, and integrity of governance offers starting points for formulating an agenda for the future. This agenda should express the desirability of both an “integrity turn” in public administration and political science and an “empirical turn” in integrity research.

Article

Crises and disasters come in many shapes and sizes. They range from global pandemics and global financial crises to tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanic ash clouds, bushfires, terrorist attacks, critical infrastructure failures and food contamination episodes. Threats may be locally isolated such as an explosion at a local fireworks factory, or they may cascade across multiple countries and sectors, such as pandemics. No country is immune from the challenge of managing extraordinary threats, and doing so out of their comfort zone of routine policy making. The crisis management challenge involves managing threats ‘on the ground’, as well as the political fallout and societal fears. Populist and journalistic commentary frequently labels crisis management initiatives as having either succeeded or failed. The realities are much more complex. Evaluators confront numerous methodological challenges. These include the careful consideration of multiple and often competing outcomes, differing perceptions, issues of success for whom, and gray areas stemming from shortfalls and lack of evidence, as well as variations over time. Despite such complexity, some key themes appear continually across evaluations, from internal reviews to royal commissions and accident inquiries. These pertain to the ways in which evaluations can be shaped heavily or lightly by political agendas, the degree to which evaluating organizations are able to open up, the degree to which gray areas and shortfalls are stumbling blocks in producing findings, and the challenge of producing coherent investigative narratives when many storylines are possible. Ultimately, evaluating crisis initiatives is “political” in nature because it seeks to provide authoritative evaluations that reconcile multiple views, from experts and lawyers to victims and their families.

Article

Paul A. Djupe and Amy Erica Smith

Experiments in religion and politics model a communication system with three elements: who (the sample) is exposed to what (the treatment) and with what potential effect (the outcome). Most experiments in religion and politics focus on one of three types of samples: clergy, the faithful within certain religious groups, or all citizens within a polity. At the core of the experiment is the randomized treatment: an independent variable that the researcher manipulates and randomly assigns to treatment groups that are supposed to be equivalent in all other respects. Certain kinds of treatments tend to be associated with certain kinds of hypothesized outcomes. That is, most experiments in religion and politics involve investigating either (a) how a randomized treatment related to religion affects a political outcome or (b) how a randomized treatment related to politics affects a religious outcome. There are several types of religious treatments that closely mirror the actual insertion of religion into public life: manipulating candidates’ religious affiliations, behavior, and rhetoric; manipulating appeals attributed to religious elites and institutions; priming subjects’ own religious or political beliefs or manipulating other religious attributes of subjects; manipulating the characteristics of other citizens; and manipulating religious institutional cues received by clergy. Experimental methods are everywhere now in the study of religion and politics and provide clear benefits for understanding how religion and politics interact. Perhaps most importantly, the method imposes intellectual rigor, helping scholars pin down theoretically and empirically the precise mechanisms involved in the mutual impact between religion and politics. In addition, experimental control enables scholars to assert more confidently the direction of influence among variables that in the real world plausibly influence each other.

Article

Carolyn M. Warner and Stephen G. Walker

Despite the increased attention to religion in international relations, questions remain about the role of religion in the foreign policies of states. Extrapolating from theories in the fields of international relations and comparative politics is a fruitful strategy to explore religion’s potential avenues of influence on foreign policy. There are also potential methodological tools of analysis in these fields, which can be fruitfully applied to understand the role of religion in foreign policy. Contributions from the field of religion and politics may be used to frame applications of such theories as realism, constructivism, liberalism, and bounded rationality to specify further hypotheses about religion and foreign policy. The potential of these theoretical approaches from international relations to the analysis of religion has not yet been exploited fully although it is clear that there are promising signs of progress.

Article

Conventional wisdom holds that Buddhism plays an important role in fueling the Tibetan independence struggle. Monks and nuns occupy a prominent place in the Tibetan struggle and the Tibetan uprisings of 1987 and 2008 were led by monastics. There is strong evidence that Buddhist frameworks, folklore, and institutions have helped to sustain nationalist mobilization at the grassroots level. However, at the elite level, the effect of Buddhism’s core doctrines on nationalist mobilization is puzzling. The Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan freedom struggle, has pursued policies that have restrained Tibetan nationalism and discouraged mass mobilization since the 1970s. Many of his political decisions—especially his 1988 decision to change the goal of the struggle from independence to autonomy—are anything but nationalistic. His successor Samdhong Rinpoche marginalized the Tibetan nationalists who demanded independence, setting in motion forces that contributed to the eventual de-escalation of the Tibetan freedom movement. While there are numerous explanatory variables behind the political decisions of both leaders, the unique fingerprints of Buddhist influence are evident in their politics and policies. How have Buddhist ideology and institutions constrained Tibetan nationalist mobilization? What role has Buddhist doctrinal belief played in the Tibetan leadership’s concessions to China in the 1980s and the curtailing of the Tibetan independence movement in the 2000s? Examination of the complex relationship among Buddhism, nationalism, and Tibetan foreign policy highlights how some of the doctrines and institutions of Buddhism have constrained the Tibetan political movement.

Article

Religion has played a constant role in the United States–Israel relationship. Christian and Jewish interests have shaped U.S. foreign policy, especially after the rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. The role of religion Israel has historically depended on three interlinking factors: the influence of domestic political considerations in the calculations of American policymakers, the prominence of the Middle East in U.S. diplomatic and strategic thinking, and the beliefs and attitudes of individual policymakers, both their own religious convictions and their assessment of how important religious beliefs are to the American people. Religion has alternately strengthened and strained the U.S. relationship with the Zionist movement and the state of Israel. At some moments, such as the 1930s, religious attitudes and prejudices worked against closer cooperation. At other times, such as the Israeli–Egyptian peace summit of 1978, religious forces played a prominent role. As a state with special religious significance for many Americans, Israel provides a window into how religion functions in U.S. foreign policy, how its function has changed over time, and how religion has acted as an independent variable in political and policy outcomes.

Article

Andreas T. Schmidt

Freedom is among the central values in political philosophy. Freedom also features heavily in normative arguments in ethics, politics, and law. Yet different sides often invoke freedom to establish very different conclusions. Some argue that freedom imposes strict constraints on state power. For example, when promoting public health, there is a limit on how far the state can interfere with individual freedom. Others, in contrast, argue that freedom is not just a constraint but also an important goal of state power and collective action. Good public health policy, for example, promotes people’s freedom. Of course, different arguments often draw on different theories of freedom. So, to evaluate such arguments, we need to analyze these different theories and their implications and assess their plausibility. The broadly liberal tradition views freedom as being about external options. Such theories typically start with an account of when someone has a specific freedom or unfreedom to do something. For example, some argue that only a narrow set of interpersonal interferences count as constraints on freedom. Others argue that a far broader set of factors, including ill health and natural constraints, can reduce one’s freedom. Since the 1980s and 1990s, scholarship has increasingly recognized that to use liberal freedom in normative arguments, one must move beyond specific freedom and unfreedom. Most laws and policies both subtract and add specific freedoms. What matters is how a person’s freedom is affected overall. Philosophers and economists have thus engaged in intricate debates about how to measure overall freedom. Moreover, policies and law affect not only one person at one point in time but also multiple persons across time. So, liberal freedom-based arguments also require distributive criteria for intertemporal and interpersonal distributions of freedom. In the early 21st century, republicanism has developed into a prominent alternative to liberal theories. Republicans argue that being a free person is not just, or not even primarily, about liberal option-freedom. Freedom requires being free from dominating power. Republicans and liberals have engaged in a lively debate on who offers the better theory. In developing the republican ideal, republicans also engage in intramural debates. For example, is domination primarily an interpersonal or structural phenomenon? And what economic institutions does republicanism imply? Theorizing around freedom has become richer and moved from narrower questions regarding specific freedom and unfreedom to overall freedom and to republican theories of nondomination. But recent theorizing also seeks to extend its focus and scope. Historically, theorizing started with the freedom of able-bodied male citizens within nation states. Recent theorizing shifts the focus to include issues around gender, disability, freedom at the international level, and the freedom of nonhuman animals and future generations. Beyond fascinating implications of existing theories, a more inclusive focus is likely to also yield important lessons on how current theories can be improved.

Article

“Religious fundamentalism” is a term that, for several decades now, has been a staple of writing about the general involvement of religion in politics. “Religious fundamentalism” is nearly always associated with “traditional,” “conservative,” or “right-wing” understandings of the world. It is articulated and pursued by those who appear to believe that the world would be a better place if all people lived by the word of (their) God, as articulated and set forth in their particular faith’s holy scriptures. In addition, for many, “religious fundamentalism” implies a rejection of modernity and a wish to return to the past, to a—perhaps mythical—time when people lived by God’s jurisdiction. Despite what some believe, it is clear that religious fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, although with historical antecedents. As a concept, “religious fundamentalism” has been widely employed since the late 1970s, especially by the mass media and many scholars. It has been used to describe and explain quite a few, sometimes rather diverse, religious movements around the globe with political aspirations to change society. The designation “fundamentalist” was first applied by some American Protestants to themselves in the 1920s. In the early 21st century, as a generic term, it is now widely applied additionally to a multitude of groups outside the corpus of American Protestantism. Generally speaking, the character and impact of fundamentalist doctrines is located within a nexus of moral and social issues revolving, in many contemporary countries and religions, around state–society interactions. “Modernization” has affected many people’s lives in profound and sometimes disconcerting ways. For some religious fundamentalists, this was manifested in an initial defensiveness, which eventually developed for many into a political offensive that sought to alter the prevailing social and political realities of state–society relations. That rulers were performing inadequately and/or corruptly, led many—but not all—religious fundamentalists to relate contemporary developments to a critical reading of their faith’s holy texts. The significance of this from a political perspective was that it could serve to supply an already restive group with a ready-made manifesto for social change. Many religious leaders saw the opportunity and began explicitly to use a selective reading of religious texts both to challenge secular rulers and to propose a program for often radical societal or sociopolitical reforms. Under these circumstances, it was often relatively easy for fundamentalist leaders to gain the support of those who felt that in some way the development of society was not proceeding according to God’s will or their community’s interests. In sum, various manifestations of what are generically referred to as religious fundamentalisms have appealed to different groups for different reasons at different times.

Article

Afro-Brazilian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning (LGBTQ+) women are often neglected in political and academic discourses on state-sanctioned violence. Despite global imagery and nationalist narratives that portray Brazil as racially democratic and sexually inclusive of its LGBTQ+ communities, Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women disproportionately endure state-sponsored terror and violence in communities compounded by structural anti-LGBTQ+ and antiblack subalternity. Brazil houses the largest Afro-descendant populous in the world outside the African continent. Yet, law enforcement routinely targets and murders Afro-Brazilians in what is considered by many black Brazilian activists to be a “black genocide.” The country also has one of the highest rates of anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes and murders in the world, which heavily impacts its robust Afro-descendant LGBTQ+ community. As victims and survivors of police terror, community violence, and antiblack and gendered structural inequities, Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women and their activism against repressive machinations of state violence, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, and socioeconomic and political injustices is rarely discussed in scholarship on transnational, black political movement building. The chronic undertheorization of Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women’s voices, lives, and scholarship has omitted their saliency as sociopolitical and intellectual agents of change in the field of black politics and influential articulators of the black radical tradition in Brazil. In examining the politics of gender, sexuality, race, violence, citizenship, and political resistance in Brazil, it is imperative to center Afro-Brazilian LGBTQ+ women’s political significance in Latin America and beyond.

Article

Mirya R. Holman and Erica Podrazik

Religiosity is a combination of public and private religious practices, beliefs, and experiences. While diversity exists in how religiosity is measured, three central components are consistent across the scholarship: organizational religious engagement, non-organizational religious activities, and subjective religiosity. To measure organizational religious engagement, scholars frequently look at church attendance and participation in congregational activities. Non-organizational religious activities include frequency of prayer, reading the Bible or other religious materials, or requesting others to pray for you. Subjective or intrinsic religiosity includes self-assessed religiousness (where respondents are asked, “How religious would you consider yourself?”) or strength of affiliation, as well as specific beliefs, such as views of the afterlife, hell, and whether the Bible is the literal word of God. Various groups express different levels of religiosity. One of the most well-documented and consistent group-based differences in religiosity is that women, including white women and women of color, are more religious than are men across religions, time, and countries. Women report higher rates of church attendance, engagement in religious practices (including prayer and reading the Bible), and more consistent and higher levels of religious interest, commitment, and engagement. Many explanations for these gaps in religiosity exist including differences in personality and risk aversion, gendered socialization patterns, and patriarchal structures within churches. Scholars have engaged in robust debates around the degree to which explanations like risk assessment or gender role theory can account for differences in religious behavior between men and women. Yet unresolved, these discussions provide opportunities to bring together scholarship and theories from religious studies, sociology, gender studies, psychology, and political science. Religiosity shapes a variety of important political and social attitudes and behaviors, including political ideology and participation. The effects of religiosity on political attitudes are heterogeneous across men and women—for example, highly religious women and men are not equally conservative, nor do they equally oppose gay rights. The process by which religiosity shapes attitudes is also gendered; for example, the effects of women’s religiosity on political attitudes and participation are mediated by gendered attitudes. And while religiosity increases political participation, the effects are not even for men and women, nor across all groups of women. Future research might examine the differing effects of religiosity on subgroups of men and women, including evaluations of how intersecting social categories like race, gender, and class shape both levels of religious engagement and the degree to which religiosity influences other political and social behavior.

Article

To understand the relationship between religion and genocide in time of war, one needs to distinguish between sacred and secular political religions. Among the genocidal events inspired by political religions based on sacred texts are the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, the Sack of Magdeburg, the British Civil War in Ireland, and Bosnia. I also examine several groups pursuing a genocidal agenda claiming religious justification: al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Civil religions and secular political religions discussed are the French Revolution, Italian Fascism, Nazism, and Stalinist Communism. Lacking the restraints found in traditional religions, secular political religion is most dangerous. Large-scale genocides are best explained by diachronic processes entailing subordination followed by gain and then loss by the perpetrators. The presence of loss in various forms is found in virtually all cases. Emotions that typically do not influence routine politics—such as anger and fear—are engaged. All of the cases, even those of minimal loss, are influenced by international events. Without the presence of war, genocides like the Holocaust, and those of the Armenians and Tutsis, are inconceivable. Even as an exclusionary ideology, traditional religion is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for all forms of genocide in time of war. But religion can be an enabler that together with other antecedents can lead to genocide. Sacred religious sites can be sensitive locations whose violation inspires violence. Radicalization of religious leaders can occur when their religion appears to be under attack, especially during or following a period of widespread violence.

Article

The German Christian Democratic Party (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), known collectively as the Union, were founded in the immediate aftermath of World War II as anti-materialist Christian responses to the atrocities of the war and as buffers to encroaching Communism and Fascism. The first Volkspartei, the CDU has served as a “catch-all” party since its inception, prioritizing its inter-confessional appeal to a diverse group of both Protestant and Catholic voters throughout Germany over ideology. Over seven decades, the CDU/CSU has enjoyed enormous success, by broadly adhering to core elements of a Christian understanding of self, promotion of a social market economy, focus on family, and a Western-focused European community. The CDU presided over the first post-war German government under long-serving Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, German reunification in 1990 under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and European stability in the face of a refugee crisis under Chancellor Angela Merkel. The CDU has evolved from a chancellor’s party centered around charismatic leadership and antipathy to Ostpolitik, to the most successful German Volkspartei and a staunch bulwark of the European community.

Article

Most philosophers agree that it is unjust for one’s life prospects to be determined by one’s race, gender, or social class. And most think that there are demanding duties on members of the same political community (co-citizens) to reduce inequalities that track these features of individuals. But philosophers strongly disagree about how to evaluate inequalities that track the country one is born in. Are global inequalities (inequalities among individuals living in different countries) as problematic and for the same reasons as domestic inequalities (inequalities among co-citizens)? The question of whether egalitarian principles of distributive justice extend globally, beyond the domestic sphere, has been the central question in the debate on global distributive justice. Statists argue that there is something normatively significant about the state, but not the global institutional order, which grounds one’s concerns with domestic inequalities, but not global inequalities. Global egalitarians argue that global inequalities are as unjust to the same extent and for the same reasons as domestic inequalities. The disagreement between both camps can be traced back to different normative, empirical, and methodological assumptions. Statists and global egalitarians can, however, converge on a number of important issues, and the debate can be advanced beyond the stalemate it has reached by investigating these issues of convergence. Significantly, statists can agree with global egalitarians that global justice requires equality of concern (the requirement that interests of all individuals have equal weight), and global egalitarians have reasons to take states seriously to the extent that having a world of states (or multiple political communities) can be shown to be compatible with the requirement of equal concern. Thus, it is important to work out whether individuals have a fundamental interest in being members of political communities, how that interest compares to their interests in opportunities, income, and wealth, and which institutional arraignments can advance these interests according to the right balance.

Article

Despite the predictions of Marxists and secularization theorists alike, the relationship between religion and government legitimacy is mixed. Religion, in its various forms, can serve to promote regimes of virtually any type—democratic or otherwise—and can just as easily undermine such regimes. Observers hoping for a one-size-fits-all account of the link between religion and legitimacy will surely be disappointed; the reality is far more complicated. Religion, encompassing a nearly infinite variety of beliefs, behaviors, and actors, exercises a diverse set of influences on its political context. For regimes, this diversity can be either helpful or dangerous. Religion is neither inherently pro-status quo nor revolutionary; it can be either one depending on the context. Likewise, religion is neither necessarily pro- nor anti-democratic. Political and theological conditions influence the ways in which religion interacts with politics, and in particular, the role it plays in building or undermining legitimacy. Twenty-first-century research highlights the Janus-faced relationship between religion and political legitimacy. In some settings, religion has been the foundation of non-democratic rule. In others, it has been a crucial catalyst for unseating dictators in favor of democratic alternatives. Theological differences can only explain part of this variation. The same religious tradition may serve as a defense of authoritarianism in one instance but a spark for democracy in another. Political factors play a key role in explaining why religion sometimes supports the status quo but in other instances may fuel revolutionary fervor.

Article

Rina Verma Williams and Sayam Moktan

With over one billion adherents worldwide and 15% of the world’s population, Hinduism is the fourth largest, and among the oldest, of the major world religions, with important political aspects that reverberate well beyond South Asia. Yet it is perhaps the least studied of the major world religions. Hinduism is also one of the most geographically concentrated religions of the world. The majority of Hindus are concentrated in two South Asian countries, Nepal and India, where Hindus constitute 80% or more of the population. Small but politically influential diasporic communities of Hindus are found throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, the United States, and Canada. Key characteristics of Hinduism that set it apart from Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), especially politically, include its polytheistic nature and lack of one single authoritative text; the tremendous variation in its practice across locality and caste; and its frequently informal practice beyond the confines of official institutions such as temples. Hinduism has been compatible with a range of regime types over time in India and Nepal, including empire, monarchy, and democracy. Both India and Nepal are officially secular countries, but the status of secularism in both countries is contested by the forces of Hindu nationalism, a movement that seeks to institutionalize the political, social, and cultural predominance of Hinduism. Religious conversion is expressly prohibited in Nepal; in India, it is increasingly under legislative attack. The politics of caste are an important political aspect of Hinduism in both India and Nepal. While politics in both countries remain dominated by upper castes, important lower-caste political mobilization has appeared in India, but has yet to take hold in Nepal. A better understanding of Hinduism’s political aspects has enormous potential to enhance knowledge of religion and politics more broadly.