"This research project aims at contributing to the debate over religion and politics in the EU by considering the role played by Catholicism in shaping civil society mobilizations in Southern European regions. The underlying theoretical issues of this project do refer to the classical debates about a) the weberian perspective on the elective affinities between religious ethics, economic and politics; b) the role of culture and social capital in the regional economic development; c) the neo-institutionalist debates about the interaction between the EU, state, substate public authorities and civil society actors. The project will focus on the Catholic third sector. Empirical support will be taken from fieldwork research carried out in three Southern European regions: the Basque Autonomous Community (Spain), Aquitaine (France) and Emilia-Romagna (Italy).
Overall hypothesis: despite the institutional and societal decline of Catholicism, religious actors do have not renounced to interfere in public debates. Rather, they have renewed their repertoire of action when becoming civil society actors among others in a pluralistic environment. Far from being confined to the private sphere, religion still plays a significant role in the European public sphere, either as an identity resource, an ethical reference or a ritual provider. As an ethical reference, Catholicism may bias civil society mobilisations towards more caring and community-oriented dynamics and outcomes. As an organization, the Catholic Church defends both general causes and its own interests, and is involved in territorial governance networks associating civil society actors, private bodies and public authorities. This hypothesis will be tested through three case-studies: a) Historical legacy: Catholicism and the emergence of territorial social economies; b) The Catholic third sector and the issue of immigration; c) The Catholic third sector’s mediation in ethnonational conflicts."
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