Can critical research on religion offer both an ideology critique and a critical retrieval of religious import? This essay suggests that it can, offering a programmatic sketch for a full-fledged critique of religion—a critique both aimed at religion and inspired by religion in a self-critical fashion. The sketch weds elements of a robustly normative critique of Western society with insights derived from the Frankfurt School. First the essay maps three societal macrostructures that organize much of contemporary social life—civil society, proprietary economy, and administrative state. Then it discusses solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice as societal principles that can sustain a critique of societal macrostructures. Next it identifies normative deficiencies within and between these macrostructures. On the basis of this architectonic critique, the essay then provides an account of religion in its critical and utopian roles. It concludes by envisioning a normative and emancipatory transformation of society as a whole.
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