Publication Date



The article examines the three alternative conceptions of the emerging global order with special reference to the place and role of the world religions in that order. (1) Cosmopolitanism builds upon developmental theories of modernization that envision this transformation as a global expansion of western secular modernity, conceived as a universal process of human development. Secularization remains a key analytical as well as normative component. Religions that resist privatization are viewed as a dangerous ‘fundamentalism’ that threatens the differentiated structures of secular modernity. (2) Huntington’s conception of the ‘clash of civilizations’ maintains the analytical components of western modernity but stripped of any universalist normative claim. Modernity is a particular achievement of western civilization that is grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition. The world religions are the continuously vital core of what are essentially incompatible civilizations doomed to clash with one another for global hegemony. (3) The model of ‘multiple modernities’ is presented as an alternative analytical framework that combines some of the universalist claims of cosmopolitanism, devoid of its secularist assumptions, with the recognition of the continuous relevance of the world religions for the emerging global order.

Document Type

Journal Article

Access Rights

ERA Access

Access may be restricted.