There is arguably no greater influence on the direction and scope of religious freedom in the 20th and 21st centuries than the unprecedented growth of the American state. As I’ve written before, “[i]n a society in which the government assumes an increasingly large role in the life of the citizenry, more injuries are transformed into legally (and perhaps even constitutionally) cognizable rights. The number and type of state interests that qualify as “compelling” swell to match the new dignitarian and other harms caused by permissive religious accommodations. And the protection of rights becomes a zero sum game, as every win for religious accommodation is a legally cognizable, but unvindicated, loss for somebody else.”
Here is a book we are late in noticing that evinces cross-disciplinary study of the growth of the state: The Many Hands of the State: Theorizing Political Activity and Social Control (CUP), edited by Kimberly J. Morgan and Ann Shola Orloff. Perhaps more such efforts will be in the offing, including some that explicitly include religion.
The state is central to social scientific and historical inquiry today, reflecting its importance in domestic and international affairs. States kill, coerce, fight, torture, and incarcerate, yet they also nurture, protect, educate, redistribute, and invest. It is precisely because of the complexity and wide-ranging impacts of states that research on them has proliferated and diversified. Yet, too many scholars inhabit separate academic silos, and theorizing of states has become dispersed and disjointed. This book aims to bridge some of the many gaps between scholarly endeavors, bringing together scholars from a diverse array of disciplines and perspectives who study states and empires. The book offers not only a sample of cutting-edge research that can serve as models and directions for future work, but an original conceptualization and theorization of states, their origins and evolution, and their effects.