Claiming Society for God

Claiming Society for God

Religious Movements and Social Welfare
Nancy J. Davis and Robert V. Robinson
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 05/30/2012
Format: Paperback 3 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00238-9
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Gold Medal winner, Religion category, 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards

Claiming Society for God focuses on common strategies employed by religiously orthodox, fundamentalist movements around the world. Rather than employing terrorism, as much of post-9/11 thinking suggests, these movements use a patient, under-the-radar strategy of infiltrating and subtly transforming civil society. Nancy J. Davis and Robert V. Robinson tell the story of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Shas in Israel, Comunione e Liberazione in Italy, and the Salvation Army in the United States. They show how these movements build massive grassroots networks of religiously based social service agencies, hospitals, schools, and businesses to bring their own brand of faith to popular and political fronts.

Author Bio

Nancy J. Davis is Lester Martin Jones Professor of Sociology at DePauw University.

Robert V. Robinson is the Class of 1964 Chancellor’s Professor of Sociology at Indiana University, Bloomington.


“Claiming Society for God focuses on common strategies employed by religiously orthodox, fundamentalist movements around the world to tell the story of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Shas in Israel, Comunione e Liberazione in Italy, and the Salvation Army in the United States.”

“Claiming Society for God is a brilliant piece of work—a beautiful example of sociology at its very best. It is very well organized, clearly written, focused on the four movements, central to major social developments in today's world, professionally researched and analyzed, both pragmatic and theoretical, overwhelmingly convincing, and an important corrective to a lot of current beliefs. It is the kind of book that I wish everyone will read and take to heart, including policy makers. It was also a great read—fascinating from beginning to end. ”
 — Wendell Bell, Yale University

“Illuminating intersections of religion and public life in four different nations, this book is topical. Given that two of these nations are in the Middle East and one of them is Egypt, it is timely, even urgent.”
 — R. Stephen Warner, University of Illinois at Chicago

“While previous research has found that social movements are more likely to succeed when they espouse flexible ideologies, single-issue agendas, and willingness to compromise, Davis and Robinson find that the religiously orthodox movements they study have been successful without having any of these characteristics. By challenging conventional wisdom about these groups as well as their prospects for success, this book . . . wins a place among the best books in recent social movement scholarship.”
 — Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

“[A] succinct and persuasive continuation of Nancy Davis and Robert Robinson’s well known work about religious movements and concern for the poor. The reader will find a carefully developed and clearly explained theory applied to four case studies of religious movements in the Abrahamic traditions. The book will be of interest and use to scholars of religion, civic life, activism, and the welfare state. . . . . Here, we find the strongest statement that cultural matters as much, if not more, than institutions, while not ignoring the complexity of these questions. This book is a welcome addition to the literature not only for its careful development and serious testing of theory, but also for the wealth of historical detail found in the case study chapters.”
 — Contemporary Sociology

“[A]dvances our understanding of the ideological complexity of these movements, the role of multifaceted organizational structure for bringing new activists into a movement, and the ways in which movements might overcome liabilities of ideological rigidity, multi-issue agendas, and distaste for compromise. . . It stands out as a model of comparative historical research in the breadth of its research on such disparate cases, as well as the tight integration of its data and analysis.”
 — Ziad Munson, Social Forces

“[A] well-written and very engaging book that will help scholars and other[s] . . . understand a different side of these movements than is usually covered . . . It is easily accessible for a nonacademic audience, while being scholarly rigorous and offering important new theoretical insights into conservative religious movements. . . . should be read by social movement, religion, and political scholars alike. I would recommend it for use in a variety of classroom settings, including undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology of religion, the non-profit sector, and social movements.”
 — Sociology of Religion

“[C]ontributes to both political sociology and the sociology of religion in multiple ways. It challenges some of the main tenets of the social movement scholarship. It is a must-read for any scholar in any of these three subfields. Sociology as whole would benefit from further discussion of religion’s potential to build alternative sources of power, domination, and struggle; and of the ambiguities, slipperiness, and multilayered nature of orthodoxy’s caring, sharing, 'communitarian' face.”
 — Cohan Tugal, Social Forces

“ [T]he book’s structure is simple, elegant, and cogent . . . It is essential reading for all scholars with interests in the interplay between religion, politics, and social welfare.”
 — Journal of Contemporary Religion

“Clearly, Davis and Robinson have written a thought-provoking book, one that is well researched and which should inspire debates among scholars of religion, social movements, politics, and social change. Given that the book is highly assessible and relevant to current events, the book deserves wide readership outside the academy as well.”
 — Mobilization

“I can think of no other recent book on orthodox movements that is as broad in its scope, rich and detailed in its narrative, well-grounded in its theory, and insightful in its analysis as Claiming Society for God. Sociologists should read this book as an antidote to the stereotyped, one-dimensional view of religiously orthodox movements so often found in today’s popular media.”
 — Review of Religious Research

“[Claiming Society for God] contains a . . . sophisticated argument with relevance to those interested in religion, politics, social movements, and civil society.2015”
 — Politics and Religion

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Table of Contents

1. Contesting the State by Bypassing It
2. The Muslim Brotherhood: Building a State within a State in Egypt
3. The Sephardi Torah Guardians: Penetrating the Israeli State to Circumvent It
4. Comunione e Liberazione: Laying the Building Blocks of a Parallel Christian Society in Italy
5. The Salvation Army USA: Doing Good to Hasten the Second Coming

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