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Faut-il définir la religion ?

Questions préalables à la construction d’une sociologie de la modernité religieuse
Must Religion Be Defined ? Questions Previous to the Establishment of a Sociology of Religious Modernity
Danièle Hervieu-Léger


The problem raised by the definition of religion is one of those challenges with which the sociological enterprise has been confronted since the birth of this discipline. The difficulty resides in the very traits of this multifaceted object, differentiated beyond the realm of definition. At greater depth, this is especially revealing of the structural ambiguity of the sociology of religion and what is at stake, since the emergence of a scientific interpretation of social phenomenon, when religious phenomenon are "reduced". For a short time, the sociology of religious institutions was able to desert the shifiing sands of this debate to philosophers, in order to concentrate, and to limit the field of their investigations, on the images that religions project of themselves. The argument advanced here outlines why this position of epistemological retreat is unacceptable, especially when it is a question of studying, over and above the "religious projected as such", the work of religion within the very core of modernity, long assumed to have excluded it. Throughout a theoretical debate which extends through the entire history of the sociology of religions, and which is also reflected, in its own way, in the itinerary chosen by the Archives, it is the question of which prerequisites could be required for a sociology of religious modernity to be established, which has been raised.

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Archives de sciences sociales des religions, 1987, 63/1 (janvier-mars), pp. 11-30

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Danièle Hervieu-Léger, « Faut-il définir la religion ?  », Archives de sciences sociales des religions [En ligne], L’héritage des Formes, mis en ligne le 18 juillet 2011, consulté le 22 juin 2021. URL :

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Danièle Hervieu-Léger

Groupe de sociologie des religions (C.N.R.S.)

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Archives de sciences sociales des religions

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