As intellectualism suppresses belief in magic,

the world’s processes become disenchanted (…)

and (…) simply ‘are’ and ‘happen’ but no longer

signify anything. As a consequence, there is a

growing demand that the world (…) be subjected

to an order that is significant and meaningful

(Max Weber)


This is the distinctively modern faculty,

the ability to create an illusion which is

known to be false but felt to be true

(Colin Campbell)


The ‘truth’ of a theory does not boil down

to its reliability but also involves the nature

of its selective perspective on the world

(Alvin W. Gouldner)



Dick Houtman is Senior Full Professor of Sociology of Culture and Religion at the Center for Sociological Research (CeSO), University of Leuven, Belgium, and faculty fellow at Yale University’s Center for Cultural Sociology (CCS), where he was a visiting fellow during the academic year 2012-2013. He is a member of the editorial boards of Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Politics and Religion, Sociologie, and Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion.


Dick Houtman’s principal research interest is cultural change in the West since the 1960s, particularly the emergence of a new political culture in which cultural rather than class issues are central, processes of religious purification and revitalization, and, more generally, the Romantic turn in the West since the 1960s. As a cultural sociologist, he aims to expose intellectual pretensions of ‘true’ meaning, solidly grounded beyond culture and history, as moral discourse disguised as science.


Dick Houtman considers himself neither a social or cultural theorist, nor a methodologist, but firmly believes that the cross-fertilization of theoretical ideas and empirical research provides the only feasible road to socially relevant and theoretically meaningful sociological knowledge. As to teaching in higher education, his philosophy is simple enough: students should not be made to reproduce other people’s ideas, but trained to think for themselves and conduct empirical research.


Last updated in April 2016