Dick Houtman


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 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 quest for authenticity. 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 November 2015