Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Patrick Greaney

Second Advisor

Henry Pickford

Third Advisor

David Ferris


The secularization thesis, which posits that religion's influence declines as a society modernizes, has fallen upon hard times. Its critics argue that the religious does not simply oppose the secular. Critical theory has a particularly vexed relationship with religion, and theorists are rethinking religion within this tradition. This thesis argues that critiques of the secular have played a significant role in the development of critical theory. A reading of Hegel's dialectic of faith and enlightenment in the Phenomenology of Spirit demonstrates its deep influence on Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment, a central text of the critical theory tradition. Horkheimer and Adorno draw on Hegel to critique the subject/object distance that enables secular, enlightenment rationality. This argument recurs in recent work by secular studies scholar, Saba Mahmood. This thesis argues that the critical theory tradition is deeply invested in the debates around the secular, despite recent claims to the contrary.