The Top Five New Law & Religion Papers on SSRN

From SSRN’s list of most frequently downloaded law and religion papers posted in the last 60 days, here are the current top five. Since last week,  Zoe Robinson remains at #1; Michal Gilad moves up to #2, while Andrew Koppelman drops to #3; Patrick McKinley Brennan remains at #4; and Ian Bartrum remains at #5.

1.What is a ‘Religious Institution’? by Zoe Robinson (Depaul University College of Law) [301 downloads]

2.In God’s Shadow: Unveiling the Hidden World of Domestic Violence Victims in Religious Communities by Michal Gilad (University of Pennsylvania Law School) [288 downloads]

3.‘Freedom of the Church’ and the Authority of the State by Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern University School of Law) [189 downloads]

4. Resisting the Grand Coalition in Favor of the Status Quo by Giving Full Scope to the Libertas Ecclesiae by Patrick McKinley Brennan (Villanova University School of Law) [153 downloads]

5.Book Review: ‘The Tragedy of Religious Freedom’  by Ian C. Bartrum (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) [125 downloads]

Cooper, “Secular Powers: Humility in Modern Political Thought”

Last month, University of Chicago Press published Secular Powers: Humility in Secular PowersModern Political Thought by Julie E. Cooper (University of Chicago).  The publisher’s description follows.

Secularism is usually thought to contain the project of self-deification, in which humans attack God’s authority in order to take his place, freed from all constraints. Julie E. Cooper overturns this conception through an incisive analysis of the early modern justifications for secular politics. While she agrees that secularism is a means of empowerment, she argues that we have misunderstood the sources of secular empowerment and the kinds of strength to which it aspires.

Contemporary understandings of secularism, Cooper contends, have been shaped by a limited understanding of it as a shift from vulnerability to power. But the works of the foundational thinkers of secularism tell a different story. Analyzing the writings of Hobbes, Spinoza, and Rousseau at the moment of secularity’s inception, she shows that all three understood that acknowledging one’s limitations was a condition of successful self-rule. And while all three invited humans to collectively build and sustain a political world, their invitations did not amount to self-deification. Cooper establishes that secular politics as originally conceived does not require a choice between power and vulnerability. Rather, it challenges us—today as then—to reconcile them both as essential components of our humanity.

Wehrey, “Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings”

This December, Columbia University Press will publish Sectarian Politics in the Gulf: From the Iraq War to the Arab Uprisings by Frederic M. Wehrey.  The Sectarian Politics in the Gulfpublisher’s description follows.

Beginning with the 2003 invasion of Iraq and concluding with the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings, Frederic M. Wehrey investigates the roots of the Shiʿa-Sunni divide now dominating the Persian Gulf’s political landscape. Focusing on three Gulf states affected most by sectarian tensions—Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait—Wehrey identifies the factors that have exacerbated or tempered sectarianism, including domestic political institutions, the media, clerical establishments, and the contagion effect of external regional events, such as the Iraq war, the 2006 Lebanon conflict, the Arab uprisings, and Syria’s civil war.

In addition to his analysis, Wehrey builds a historical narrative of Shiʿa activism in the Arab Gulf since 2003, linking regional events to the development of local Shiʿa strategies and attitudes toward citizenship, political reform, and transnational identity. He finds that, while the Gulf Shiʿa were inspired by their coreligionists in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, they ultimately pursued greater rights through a nonsectarian, nationalist approach. He also discovers that sectarianism in the region has largely been the product of the institutional weaknesses of Gulf states, leading to excessive alarm by entrenched Sunni elites and calculated attempts by regimes to discredit Shiʿa political actors as proxies for Iran, Iraq, or Lebanese Hizballah. Wehrey conducts interviews with nearly every major Shiʿa leader, opinion shaper, and activist in the Gulf Arab states, as well as prominent Sunni voices, and consults diverse Arabic-language sources.