The Culture Wars Today

December 18, 2019

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Moscow skyline with spires of an Orthodox church

Confrontations between social conservative and progressive forces in American society, described as “culture wars” by James D. Hunter in 1991, are as much a reality today as they were in the past. For the last thirty years, the American Christian right has exported the model of the American culture wars to other parts of the world. The American Christian right’s agenda on family, homeschooling, and opposition to abortion is actively diffused abroad by associations such as the World Congress of Families and the Home School Legal Defense Association. Only fairly recently has the American Christian right found a new powerful ally for its cause: Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. This has allowed Russia to define its anti-liberal profile in a Christian conservative key that differs from the traditional Orthodox Christian anti-Westernism.

Russia as the new defender of “traditional values” has found many admirers among conservatives in the West, but it has also sharpened normative debates inside the Orthodox world, where the Russian Orthodox Church’s conservative position is one theological voice among others. For Russia, the globalized Christian right is a useful ally. It provides the language and themes for preferring closeness to Russia over an EU association in the countries of the former Soviet Union, or for attacking EU policies on migration and “traditional values” issues. In turn, this has antagonized liberal civil society and political opposition in new and old EU member states.

This week the Berkley Forum gathers recent research and expert opinions on the culture wars today to ask: Who are the actors of contemporary culture wars in the United States and Europe? What do participants in the global culture wars hope to accomplish?  What are the political, historical, and sociological backgrounds of new alliances between the American Christian right, the European populist right, and Russian actors? How might conservative norm mobilization affect the United States, Europe, and Russia?

related conference | Russia in the Global Culture Wars

This event received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (POSEC, grant agreement no. ERC-STG-2015-676804).

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