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Religion and the Rise of Liberal-Democratic Ideology in 17th-Century England

David Zaret
American Sociological Review
Vol. 54, No. 2 (Apr., 1989), pp. 163-179
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095788
Page Count: 17
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Religion and the Rise of Liberal-Democratic Ideology in 17th-Century England
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Abstract

In classical and contemporary sociology, key elements of liberal-democratic ideology are seen as secular extensions of Protestant ideas. This case study provides a different analysis that emphasizes the problem of religious conflict and radicalism in early liberal-democratic ideology. Proponents of the new ideology rejected key tenets of their Puritan heritage, adopting deistic beliefs that legitimated pluralism and tolerance and opposed the older Puritan ideal of godly politics. Building on recent work in the sociology of culture, the paper outlines an analytic strategy for explaining change in ideological systems. Ideological change emerges out of the interaction of contextual pressures and intellectual precedents, as a collective response by ideological innovators to problems of authority. The analysis in this study shows how historical events can form an episodic context which structures this problem of authority.

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