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Religion in America: A Political History (Religion, Culture, and Public Life) Hardcover – August 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Lacorne is an acute yet friendly observer of US politics and culture. The parts of the book that form a straightforward essay on religion in America are wise, sympathetic, and vividly written. But his weaving of this account into the story of France's long obsession with America is fascinating in its own right, and casts light on the larger theme. Sorting through the insights and misconceptions of his predecessors is unexpectedly revealing: quite often funny, too.

(Financial Times)

Anyone interested in religion and politics in the U.S. stands to be deeply informed by Lacorne's lucid, intelligent book.


Forceful and intelligent.

(Kirkus Reviews)

it surveys its subject with grace and insight, as well as a lot of information.

(Jim Cullen Cutting Edge)

It's an edifying read for someone seeking grounding in the subject as well as a user-friendly course adoption.

(Jim Cullen History News Network)

This book provides a much welcomed viewpoint from outside our ongoing religious squabbles in American politics. Lacorne admirably avoids oversimplification while remaining eminently readable.

(Library Journal)

A fascinating and noteworthy study of American religion.

(Eldon J. Eisenach Journal of American History)

On a shelf groaning with books on politics and religion, Denis Lacorne's study will stand out for its distinct perspective and erudition.

(Thomas E. Buckley American Historical Review)

The book is quite thorough, considering the substantial historical period being covered. Examples--from legal cases to travel narratives, public school curricula changes to political pulpits--are expertly chosen, and the resulting exploration is as concerned with the specifics of the topics as it is a general commentary on broad overarching concepts.

(Saliha Chattoo Studies in Religion)

Suitable for college-level political history and religion holdings alike…a fine scholarly assessment and history, this is a recommendation for any college-level collection!

(Midwest Book Review)


Denis Lacorne is the best European observer of American politics and culture I know. Extraordinarily knowledgeable and sympathetic, he sees through simple-minded myths about America and is attentive to connections we miss. Religion in America, which concerns the non-contradiction between Enlightenment and Protestantism in the American imagination, confirms what I've long suspected: that Lacorne understands us better than we understand ourselves.

(Mark Lilla, Columbia University, author of The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West)|

Drawing upon Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America (1835) and attempting to avoid simplistic clichés of American religion, French political scientist Denis Lacorne brilliantly argues that religion has played an ongoing role in the American republic because it has blended Enlightenment skepticism, American pragmatism, and religious innovation and entrepreneurialism over the past two centuries. He cogently engages widespread misconceptions among French intellectuals and Europeans about the role of religion in American public life and points to the ironic and contradictory impulses within American and French political life. His book reads like a modern Tocqueville, and it is highly recommended!

(Gastón Espinosa, Claremont McKenna College, author of Religion and the American Presidency: George Washington to George W. Bush with Commentary and Primary Sources)

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Product Details

  • Series: Religion, Culture, and Public Life
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231151004
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231151009
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,422,319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a strong analysis of the role of religion in the American political landscape, particularly pointing out the nuance in specific areas that are frequently misinterpreted at face value. Denis Lacorne is a French professor of political science whose informed outsider view brings the distance required to tease out fundamental threads of American culture from the larger political weave. His analysis of presidents and presidential candidates' use of religion in campaigning and positioning in the culture is astute and enlightening. At the same time, Lacorne's perspective leads to a long analysis of the French historiography on American religiosity, but then declines to develop a full comparison of the two nations' positions on secularity in governance, which IMHO would have been useful. He does a good job of revealing the exaggerated shadow of the Puritans, particularly as seen from abroad (the French tend to blame anything remotely conservative about American society on the Puritans). It would have been interesting to consider regional differences of religion in politics, but perhaps that would require another book! All told, an excellent and insightful look at the crossroads of American religion and politics.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A unique perspective religion using comparative analysis of US and French societies. Some great quotes; not your standard fare.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Papa Redden on December 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
If a survey of French thought about the role of religion in America sounds interesting to you, then this book will do the trick. The writing is accessible, the criticism, fact correction, and context is helpful, and it's a quick read.
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