Workshop 3B politics

Robert van Putten – Sphere Sovereignty in the Late-modern Liquid Network Society

The central topic of this paper is the concept of ‘sphere sovereignty’. This paper firstly discusses the compatibility of this idea of social order in relation to two currently prominent ideas of social order: ‘liquidity’ and ‘network society’. Secondly, this paper discusses the potential productivity of sphere sovereignty for application in the field of public administration, i.e. in theorizing and practicing ‘network governance’.

Sphere sovereignty can considered to be the most important concept of the social- and political philosophy in the neo-calvinistic tradition (cf. Dooyeweerd 1969). This concept has a twofold function. Firstly, it provides a descriptive theory of social order; secondly, it is part of political philosophy since sphere sovereignty provides a framework for a normative discussion onthe order of society. Sphere sovereignty is frequently used in Christian political thinking, and is continuously reinterpreted and updated, most recently by Chaplin (2011). However, connections with other social theories havenot been made thus far, though it is an urgent matter.

Currently, the concepts of ‘liquidity’ (Bauman, 2000) and ‘network society’ (Castells, 1996) are dominant in social theory, in the social sciences and in the study of public administration. What makes it urgent to discuss these concepts in relation to Dooyeweeerd’s sphere sovereignty is their seeming incompatibility with both the idea of vertical sovereignty, and the concept of fixed or established spheres containing mutual (normative) horizontal boundaries.Not only does this seeming incompatibility arise in the comparison between sphere sovereignty and social order, but also in the comparison between sphere sovereignty and theories of governance – since the concepts of social order provide the study of public administration a basis for new concepts of governing, which most prominently comes to light in the concept ‘network governance’ (Koppenjan&Klijn, 2004). Therefore, the aim of this paper is to discuss the compatibility and productivity of sphere sovereignty in relation to the mentioned recent concepts of social order and governance.

This paper contributes to the enrichment of sphere sovereignty. I will provide a convincing argument for using Dooyeweerd’s social theory in the social sciences, particularly in the study of public administration. Moreover, the analysis of the compatibility and productivity of sphere sovereignty for public administration contributes to theory building in the social sciences.Eventually, this paper contributes to the main theme of this conference. A discussion of the potential of sphere sovereignty in relation to other social theories and governing concepts provides a useful update for Christian political philosophy for the twenty-first century.

Key references

Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid modernity. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the networksociety. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Chaplin, J. (2011).  Herman Dooyeweerd. Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.

Dooyeweerd, H. (1969). A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Volume 3: The Structures of Individuality in Temporal Reality. (Translation: H. de Jongste, D.H. Freeman). The Presbytarian and Reformed Publishing Company (second edition).

Koppenjan, J., &Klijn, E.H. (2004). Managing uncertainties in networks. London: Routledge.

Antonius Steven Un – The Public Sphere as a Sovereign Sphere: an Interpretation of Jürgen Habermas’ Philosophy from the Perspective of Abraham Kuyper’s Theology

Jürgen Habermas’ (1929-) is known as the prominent philosopher of the public sphere. His book The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (1962) and its English translation (1989) has continually provoked many academic discourses on democracy, citizenship and communication. The public sphere as thought by Habermas is space where private individuals may freely access to make some non-coercive discussions on the common matter and mutual interest and finally form the public opinion. It will be used to steer government’s law and public policies. The public sphere then become an essential element in a healthy democracy since it presupposes freedom and equality of citizens and become a counterweight to the state.

If indeed the public sphere as presented by Habermas is such an important phenomenon, it certainly is a topic for theology to consider. Therefore, I will use Abraham Kuyper’s credo of sphere sovereignty to analyze it. In constructing this credo, Kuyper rejects the state-sovereignty and popular-sovereignty and puts them to their original position. The public sphere as presented by Habermas is a counterweight to the state so it rejects the state’s invasion. However, an annoying question remains, “if the public sphere as presented by Habermas is a gathering of private individuals then is it a kind of the popular-sovereignty that is rejected by Kuyper for its individualism?”

This essay will evince that the public sphere as thought by Habermas is not a kind of popular-sovereignty as rejected by Kuyper but precisely a sovereign sphere. In Kuyper’s view, a sovereign sphere was created by God and has its own divine purposes as well as laws of life. In evincing this thesis, I will show that the public sphere has its divine foundation and purposes and also its laws of life. Thus, it does not derive its existence from the state. The Christians should involve in the public sphere, as a God’s-ordered sphere.

Key Sources

Habermas, Jürgen ([1962] 1989). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere. Trans. T. Burger & F. Lawrence. Cambridge: the MIT Press.

Habermas, Jürgen ([2005] 2008). “Religion in the Public Sphere: Cognitive Presuppositions for the ‘Public Use of Reason’ by Religious and Secular Citizens” in Between Naturalism and Religion: Philosophical Essays. Trans. Ciaran Cronin. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kuyper, Abraham ([1880] 1998). “Sphere Sovereignty” in Abraham Kuyper: a Centennial Reader. Ed. James D. Bratt. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans & Paternoster.

Kuyper, Abraham ([1898] 1931). Lectures on Calvinism. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans.

Kuyper, Abraham. ([1902-1904] 1998). “Common Grace” in Abraham Kuyper: a Centennial Reader. Ed. James D. Bratt. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans & Paternoster.


Dr. Jack Barentsen – Religious Diversity and Innovation: Key Challenges for Religious Leaders

Religion has returned as a major social force in secularized western societies, although it has changed shape through the dynamics de-institutionalization, individualization and globalization. Traditional Christian communities have lost millions of members and thousands of churches in Europe and the United States have closed. Simultaneously, other religions have established a strong institutional basis in the west, such as the hundreds of Islamic communities and their mosques that now punctuate the skyline of most cities. This changing religious landscape in postmodern western societies confronts religious communities and their leaders with ‘adaptive challenges’ or ‘wicked problems’[i] that form a major challenge to human flourishing. In response, some Christian leaders have created innovative forms of community in a religious market that has markedly diversified.[ii]

Religious diversity has been studied for decades in various disciplines, e.g. in the workplace, in education and in faith communities,[iii] but the interaction between religious leadership, religious super diversity and religious innovation is under explored.[iv] This paper explores how religious leaders innovate to meet the challenge of this growing (internal) diversity in religious beliefs and values. A number of case studies, drawn from the vast literature on missional and emerging churches, will be analyzed through the lens of the social identity theory of leadership.[v] The case studies will investigate how religious identity and practice is shaped in the current context of religious diversity, and how religious leaders respond to these dynamics in the identity construction of their followers and communities. The aim is to detect principles and practices for religious leadership that are helpful in embedding this growing diversity within religious communities, in order to contribute to the public relevance and impact of religious communities, enhancing human flourishing as alternative to the many leadership initiatives that polarize instead.

[i] Heifetz, R. A., Grashow, A., & Linsky, M. (2009). The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Boston: Harvard Business Press; Grint, K. (2005). Problems, Problems, Problems: The Social Construction of ‘Leadership’. Human Relations, 58(11), 1467-1494.

[ii] Moynagh, Michael (2014). Being Church, Doing Life: Creating Gospel Communities Where Life Happens. Oxford: Lion Hudson; Roxburgh, Alan J. (2015). Structured for Mission: Renewing the Culture of the Church. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity. Vertovec, S. (2007). Super-Diversity and Its Implications. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 30(6), 1024-1054

[iii] Meister, C. V. (Ed.). (2010). The Oxford Handbook of Religious Diversity. New York: Oxford University Press.

[iv] Jonsen, K., Maznevski, M. L., & Schneider, S. C. (2011). Special Review Article: Diversity and Its Not So Diverse Literature: An International Perspective. International Journal of Cross Cultural Management, 11(1), 35-62.

[v] Hogg, M. A., Knippenberg, D. v., & Rast, D. E. (2012). The Social Identity Theory of Leadership: Theoretical Origins, Research Findings, and Conceptual Developments. European Review of Social Psychology, 23(1), 258-304.