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Tracy James
IU Communications

Last modified: Friday, June 21, 2013

'Claiming Society for God' honored with Independent Publisher Book Award

June 21, 2013

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- "Claiming Society for God: Religious Movements and Social Welfare," written by Indiana University Bloomington sociologist Robert V. Robinson and DePauw University sociologist Nancy J. Davis, is co-recipient of the gold medal in religion of the 2013 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

The "IPPY" Awards recognize books published by university and independent presses -- Indiana University Press published "Claiming Society for God" in 2012.

The award was presented May 29 at a ceremony in New York City that kicked off the annual BookExpo America convention.

Davis and Robinson, who are married, have been writing together on religiously orthodox movements for 18 years, winning recognition from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and the American Sociological Association's sections on sociology of religion and on collective behavior and social movements.

"Claiming Society for God" argues that religiously orthodox movements of Christians, Jews and Muslims across the world have converged on a common strategy to install their own brand of faith at the center of societies and states they regard as alarmingly secularized.

Robinson, Chancellor's Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, said many scholars, political observers and world leaders -- especially since 9/11 -- see this shared strategy as involving armed struggle or terrorism. Yet "Claiming Society for God" describes how the approach of the most prominent and successful religiously orthodox movements is not violent; it's a patient, under-the-radar effort to fundamentally transform civil society, a strategy the authors call "bypassing the state."

Authors Nancy Davis and Robert Robinson

Nancy Davis and Robert Robinson

Print-Quality Photo

Telling the stories of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Sephardi Torah Guardians or Shas in Israel, Comunione e Liberazione in Italy, and the Salvation Army in the U.S, Davis and Robinson show how these movements are building massive, grassroots networks of religion-based social service agencies, hospitals and clinics, rotating credit societies, schools, charitable organizations, worship centers and businesses. These networks are already being called states within states, surrogate states or parallel societies. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood's vast social network brought the movement to power in the country's first open parliamentary and presidential elections.

"Bypassing the state, rather than directly confronting it, allows these movements to quietly accomplish their theological, cultural and economic agendas," Robinson said. "This bottom-up, entrepreneurial strategy is not mere reformism or accommodation to the state; it's aimed at nothing less than making religion the cornerstone of society."

Claiming Society for God also received the Scholarly Achievement Award from the North Central Sociological Association.