Alfred Stepan’s legacy

by Jeremy Menchik

“Alfred Stepan’s death left a gaping hole in the academy and the world. A giant in the field of comparative politics, Al (as he was known to friends) was an even more powerful force in the world of democratic development, having dedicated much of his life to understanding the forces that lead to democratic transition, democratic consolidation, and democratic breakdown.

Readers of The Immanent Frame are likely to be familiar with his work on religion, including his influential article, “Religion, Democracy and the ‘Twin Tolerations.’” Yet, although he worked closely with Father Theodore Hesburgh on the elimination of nuclear weapons in the 1980s, Al came to the academic study of religion relatively late in his career having already authored or coauthored ten books on the military, authoritarianism, and democratic transition and consolidation. As a result, Al brought a distinctive ethical sensibility to the study of religion and politics. In this essay I want to elucidate that sensibility since it is central to his legacy. ….” full article