Policing public/private borders: Religion, liberalism, and the 'private judgment of the magistrate'

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Separation of church and state, Political philosophy, Gay rights, Public-private borders, Religion, Liberalism

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Philosophy | Religion


Most scholarly texts on "church and state" are either histories of the relationship between "church and state," or political treatises arguing for more or less "separation." Unlike these approaches, which generally take for granted the principles of liberal democracy and its public/private distinction, this dissertation uses Foucauldian discourse analysis in order to interrogate the very idea of a "separation of church and state," or the very idea of a "private sphere" that could somehow be separate from a "public sphere." In addition, this discourse analysis will be paired with a Gramscian analysis, which identifies the "private" or "civil sphere" not as separate from or below the state, but as constitutive of the state itself. For Gramsci, the civil sphere is not regulated from above by the state so much as state regulations reflect the interests of dominate civil institutions. Similarly, through analyses of early modern history, early modern political philosophy, contemporary political philosophy, contemporary political rhetoric, and American legislation, this dissertation argues that circulation of power from civil institutions to the state holds true in liberal democracies, and that the public/private discourses designed to prevent it actually assist in masking the relationship between civil and state powers.


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