Convergence Toward the New Paradigm: A Case of Induction

Warner, R. Stephen. “Convergence Toward the New Paradigm: A Case of Induction.” In Rational Choice Theory and Religion: Summary and Assessment. Lawrence A. Young, ed. Pp. 87-101. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Acknowledging his indebtedness to Rodney Stark, Laurence Iannaccone and Roger Finke, Stephen Warner writes “Convergence Toward a New Paradigm” to clarify the substantive and methodological differences his “new paradigm” in religion has with their “Rational Choice Model of Religion.” Warner’s new paradigm, first introduced in an earlier article (“Work in Progress Toward a New Paradigm for the Sociological Study of Religion in the United States,” American Journal of Sociology, March 1993), “draws on American history to argue that religion can flourish under conditions of societal diversity and change,” in contrast to the “old paradigm” which finds religion to be most viable in societal conditions of stability and monolithic consensus. Instead of breaking ranks with these rational choice scholars, Warner believes his model, with its differences, strengthens the general approach to religion he shares with these scholars “without embracing the individualistic presuppositions and deductive logic of rational choice theorizing.” <p> Warner’s substantive difference suggests that this new approach to religion may operate only within the parameters of US religion and not in every society as the rational choice model would affirm. The methodological difference is one of induction rather than deduction. Warner spends the bulk of the essay recounting two decades of field observations and research, including work among new ethnic and immigrant congregations, which contributed to his new paradigm thinking. Warner finds that what unites “new paradigm thinkers” against the economic imagery of US religion promoted by Peter Berger and others is not rational choice theory as much as the recognition that disestablishment of religion in the US (and the religious energies this released) is the “analytic norm of our theorizing.”