Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1933) Professor of Sociology and Sociology of Religion at the Catholic University of Leuven (Belgium). President, International Sociological Association Research Committee 22, 1978-1982; International Society for the Sociology of Religion (SISR), 1983-1991. ASR Furfey lecturer, 1986.

His most well-known work to English-speaking readers is the volume Secularization: A Multidimensional Concept (Sage 1982, originally published as an issue of the journal Current Sociology ). He considers secularization in three dimensions: as laicisation of social institutions, as weakening of religious integration, and as a specifically religious phenomenon. These dimensions do not always appear distinct from each other, and he therefore suggests a study of the different meaning systems that direct behavior.

Author/editor of 15 books and author/coauthor of some 150 articles, Dobbelaere's research interests run from the role of the hospital in a predominantly Christian society (with M. Ghesquière-Waelkens and J. Lauwers, La dimension chrétienne d'une institution hospitalière , Part 3, Licap 1975) to the spread of Buddhism in the United Kingdom (with B. Wilson, A Time to Chant , Clarendon 1994) as well as a number of quantitative studies of religiosity (collaborative volumes, La Belgique et ses Dieux , Cabay 1985; Belges, heureux et satisfaits , De Boeck Université 1992).

Starting with the metaphor of the Catholic "pillar" in Belgian society in different forms (schools, cooperatives, trade unions, hospitals, banking, newspapers, political parties), Dobbelaere demonstrates how important changes occurred during the 1960s in the "pillarized structure of Belgian society." There appeared to be no weakening of ties with a Catholic inspiration corresponding to changes in doctrinal belief or liturgical observance; indeed, these organizations appear to retain their capacity to attract (e.g., 1978, 1988).

Roberto Cipriani


K. Dobbelaere, "Secularization, Pillarization, Religious Involvement, and Religious Change in the Low Countries," in World Catholicism in Transition , ed. T. Gannon (New York, Macmillan, 1988): 80-115

K. Dobbelaere et al., "Secularization and Pillarization," Annual Review of the Social Sciences of Religion 2(1978):97-123.

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