Sociology and Anthropology
Mainstream sociology of religion often presumes that its conceptual categories are universal and complete. They are, however, grounded in the Western intellectual tradition and arise from that tradition’s reflection on Euro-American history. This article outlines an alternate sociology of religion based on the writings of the 14th century Moslem historian Ibn Khaldûn – whose ideas arise from a very different world. His sociology is not grounded in individuals, nor does it focus only on religious beliefs and institutions. Instead it emphasizes the distinction between tribes and cities as forms of social organization, the importance of Al 'Assabiyya or "group-feeling" in social life, and the special role of Islam in transforming that feeling. This locates religious individualism and institutionalism at distinct points in an historical cycle, throwing new light on debates about religious authority, popular religion, and secularization. It also highlights the connections between religion and ethnicity – helping us understand key late-20th century phenomena.