Luke Bretherton, Department of Education and Professional Studies, School of Social Science and Public Policy, King's College London, Waterloo Road, London SE1 9NH, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Much of the academic literature on religious dialogue, and the policy being formulated regarding inter-faith relations, lacks any scope for genuinely political relationships or any account of how inter-faith relations are affected by the market and the state. Abstracting accounts of inter-faith relations from broader accounts of political economy masks how the state and the market are key factors in establishing the conditions and possibilities for such relations. This article avoids such abstraction and develops a constructive account of how to reconceptualize inter-faith relations as a civic rather than religious practice and common action between different faiths as directly political rather than as humanitarian service provision. Part of this account entails situating it within broader debates about secularization and whether the contemporary context can be described as “postsecular.” The key question addressed in this article is how can a common life be negotiated between different faith traditions, with different and competing claims to truths, amid the pressures and structures brought to bear upon that common life by the state and the market on which all depend? This article describes some of the factors shaping the relationship between faith groups, state and market within the contemporary context, and then, after locating these issues within broader theoretical debates about secularization, makes some constructive proposals for how religious groups might engage in inter-faith relations within this context. It closes by identifing the civic practices of listening, a commitment to place, and the building and maintenance of institutions as central to the formation of a politics of the common good.