About History Seminars

Scholarship on secularisation is heavily influenced by the historical experience of Western Christian societies, and the influential work of the German sociologist, Max Weber. We have a poorer understanding of the process, and indeed the meaning, of secularisation in non-Christian societies. Of these, the secularisation process in Buddhist societies is arguably the least well studied. In Thailand, the most populous Theravada Buddhist country, the influence of modernisation theory since the Cold War has exaggerated the extent of secularisation. The sacralisation of King Bhumibol (r. 1946-2016) towards the end of his reign, amendments to the Sangha Act in 2017, and some indications of the politicisation of Buddhism in electoral politics, suggest that a ‘de-secularisation’ process may be taking place, in line with global trends in recent decades (Berger 1999). This paper will explore the theme of secularisation in Thailand’s history, politics, law and society since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932. What does secularisation mean in a Buddhist society? Does the Weberian secularisation thesis work for Thailand? What would a historical narrative of secularisation in Thailand look like?



E301 Forgan Smith Building (1)