The CORPS Rationale

There is an intensification of interest in matters relating to faith, most particularly the relationship between religion, politics and society. CORPS was established as a constructive response to this interest. It aims to provide an institutional framework for an emergent network of academics in London whose research, teaching and work with those outside the academy overlaps and intersects with each other.

As academics with a long-standing interest in the area of religion, politics and society we have experienced four distinct but related pressures that could potentially threaten the academic integrity of our work and requires co-operation between us.

1. The first is political and emerges from the concern that the state has with civic peace or ‘community cohesion’ and the ‘threat’ posed to this by religious groups and communities. This can lead to a subordination of academic autonomy to political considerations that should be open to as much critical scrutiny as the political assumptions of faith communities. We consider that the preservation of academic autonomy can only be achieved through the strengthening of an academic community that is based on peer group review, mutual criticism and support. For this reason the establishment of a consortium of academics studying the relationship of religion to politics and society could provide an institutional expression and defence of those academic values in defiance, if necessary, of the face of explicit and implicitly political pressures.

2. The second threat to academic integrity comes from faith communities themselves. There are pressures arising from issues of ‘respect’ and a desire to subordinate critical academic work to the instrumental needs of religious communities or the demands of faith. It is important that those of us who take faith seriously, in itself, as a self-validating source of moral and theological claims are free to examine the claims that faith groups make for eternal truth as freely as we criticise the claims of reason to a universal validity. The consortium is there to protect academic research , deliberation and discussion from the pressures exerted by faith communities groups and organisations to limit its scope.

3. The third threat to academic integrity arises from competition and market pressures. In a growing area of course development, academic research and political interest such as religion and politics there is a considerable temptation to copy the innovations of others which can sometimes lead to plagiarism and duplication. We think that through the establishment of a consortium for the study of religion, politics and society there can be an open discussion of issues where conflict and competition pertain. There can be a regular dissemination of information and a recognition of areas of interest and expertise. CORPS also intends to act as a hub for the dissemination of information about research grants, seminars, conferences, courses, centres and institutes.

4. The fourth area of pressure comes from within the academy itself. The academic community can be hostile to the understanding of religion and very hostile to any relationship between faith and politics. A constitutive feature of each of the founding members of CORPS is a respect for the integrity of faith and a recognition of its importance as a moral tradition of worldly social and political engagement. We recognise that there are academics who view religion as a force for obscurantism, superstition, cruelty and violence, a threat to liberty, security and community. We see the founding of CORPS as an important defence against this academic hostility and consider that the establishment of a common institutional framework to defend uphold the importance and validity of this area of study a is necessary.

All of these pressures are at their most intense in London where there is the greatest plurality and magnitude size of faith communities which are themselves constantly engaged with a constant engagement with politics and wider currents in social life society.

  Page last updated : : 16 Sep 2008