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Religious Renaissance in China Today


  • Richard Madsen



Since the beginning of the Reform Era in 1979, there has been a rapid growth and development of religious belief and practice in China. A substantial new scholarly literature has been generated in the attempt to document and understand this. This essay identifies the most important contributions to that literature and discusses areas of agreement and controversy across the literature. Along with new data, new paradigms have developed to frame research on Chinese religions. The paradigm derived from C. K. Yang’s classic work in the 1960s came from structural functionalism, which served to unite research in the humanities and social sciences. However, structural functionalism has been abandoned by the new generation of scholars. In the humanities, the most popular paradigm derives from Michel Foucault, but there are also scholars who use neo-Durkheimian and neo-Weberian paradigms. In the social sciences, the dominant paradigms tend to focus on state-society relations. None of these paradigms fully captures the complexity of the transformations happening in China. We recommend greater dialogue between the humanities and social sciences in search of more adequate theoretical frameworks for understanding Chinese religions today.

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  • Richard Madsen, 2011. "Religious Renaissance in China Today," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 40(2), pages 17-42.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:chaktu:v:40:y:2011:i:2:p:17-42

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Zhongdong Ma, 2001. "Urban labour-force experience as a determinant of rural occupation change: evidence from recent urban - rural return migration in China," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 33(2), pages 237-255, February.
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    China; religion; humanities; state-society conflicts;


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