CRESR Seminar - 'Sectarianism' and the changing power ratio in Scotland

Start date: 
Wed, 19/11/2014
Closing date: 
Wed, 19/11/2014
Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Stoddart Building, Room 7139
Event contact: 
Ian Wilson & Will Eadson

Time: 4.00-5.00 pm

Alex Law - University of Abertay


Some sociologists argue that sectarianism has only ever been a negligible problem in Scotland, which, they confidently predicted decades ago, the process of advancing secularization would shortly kill off for good. Except that it didn’t. Public concern about ‘sectarianism’ did not fade away as predicted but instead became a major political and legal issue in Scotland, attracting polarized academic camps. Sectarianism’s afterlife requires further explanation beyond generalities about social and political change. Specifically, this paper accounts for shifts in the balance of power between and within established and outsider groups in Scotland (Elias and Scotston, 1994). Understood in this way, heightened discourses and recent legislation to combat ‘sectarianism’ reflects a belated recognition of the more equal power balance between a formerly weak outsider group, Roman Catholics of Irish descent, and a no longer cohesive powerful majority group, Scottish Protestants.


Alex Law is Chair of Sociology at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland. Most recently he has completed a book on the history of social theory and crisis, Social Theory For Today (Sage, 2015).

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