Höög, Victoria: Enlightenment Historiography in Flux: Comments about the Post Secularist Break with Standard Modernization Thesis.

While critique of the Enlightenment is as old as the Enlightenment project itself, the past decades have experienced an intensified and more disparaging criticism in late modern academic trends such as post-structuralism, post-humanism, post-colonialism and post-secular theology. The burden of debt is placed on the modern project, which is traced back to the Enlightenment, accused of establishing the hubris of reason and science that paved the way for the twentieth century catastrophes. Hence the interpretations of the Enlightenment are strongly informed by analyses of the present – their function being arguments in present day politically and morally debates. Two main positions can be distinguished. Firstly, in different branches of religious studies the poststructuralist influences dominate. The concept “the post secular age” includes a claim on a new historical epoch and a break with the values of the Enlightenment, the supposed common origin for the process that caused the disasters of modernity, that in its perverted form ended in the Holocaust The scientific instrumental rationality excluded religion and other forms of non-rational knowledge. The dominating liberal historiographical tradition is de-and re-constructed, by exclusions and inclusions inspired by Martin Heidegger’s philosophy, catch up by Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. In the post secular version – with John Gray’s word’s - modern politics becomes a chapter in the history of religion, thereby claiming on renewed recognition. Secondly, in the standard version of the history of the Enlightenment intellectual ideas leaning on reason and materialism, played a decisive role in creating the democratic liberal political culture and modernization in general. During the twentieth century Ernst Cassirer, Peter Gay and currently Jonathan Israel have kept these ideas about the Enlightenments as the origin of modernisation alive. These works have done a great contribution to revitalize the debate about the intellectual history of the Enlightenment. Also Jürgen Habermas has during the last thirty years criticized the post-structuralist positions for its excessive pessimism and rejection of reason. Neither of the above scholars reject the role of religion but see its disappearance from public politics as a vital factor in developing national peace and freedom in liberal democracies. This paper addresses two questions 1) What historical arguments are used to document the existence of a post-secular condition in Western Europe, sometimes conceptualized as “the Return of God”? 2) Can a distinct historiographical tradition be discernible for the philosophers that supports the idea of post-secular society? Does a conceptual migration take place where political liberal concepts such as reason, rationality, justice, tolerance and universalism acquire modified meanings and connotations? In conclusion, the paper discusses whether a restructured historiographical formation that questions the secularization of the state power as the core of modernization. A general purpose is to rethink the validity of this Enlightenment criticism from historical and philosophical perspectives in order to make to make intellectual room for a view of the Enlightenment legacy that keep the virtues of critique alive, but in a moderated and less excessive theoretical mood.