Constructs of Meaning and Values in Europe
The research in this cluster puts the focus on religion’s turn to the individual’s desire for transcendence and meaning in modern society. This turn has resulted in a multitude of individual and social forms of religion and constructs of meaning in which traditional religious forms are affirmatively and/or critically evaluated and reconfigured. The research project consists of two components that are to be considered complementarily: on the one hand, qualitative empirical research and on the other, theoretical texts and concepts (Heine 2000). In order to reach a thorough assessment of these interrelationships empirical data and theoretical concepts are analyzed from a cultural historical point of view, including sociological (socio-economic), psychological and theological perspectives. Here the aim is to investigate the explicit and latent religious constructs of meaning underlying seemingly profane social structures and institutions. A further focal point of this cluster is the subject of values as they are influenced by religious constructions of meaning. The subject of research is therefore the critical assessments of pluralistic and conflicting discourses on values in the public domain. These assessments are based on the data of the European Values Study that has studied values and normes for more than three decades the values and norms of the European peoples in 44 countries. From the perspective of political sciences, social sciences, jurisprudence and practical theology, the protagonists (i.e. institutions), arguments, themes and interests are critically studied through an analysis of the public-policy-processes surrounding the discourse on values. Special attention is paid to the question of how the discourse on values influences socio-economic and cultural inclusion and exclusion processes. Furthermore, the current and possible role of churches, religious communities and religious institutions in these processes – in the context of the specific juridical structures of countries – are examined. The aim of this cluster is to provide not only a critical analysis and interpretation of public discourses on values, but also to develop interdisciplinary criteria and directives that will serve the improvement of the quality of (especially religiously motivated and reasoned) discourses on values in society.