The fate of an epoch which has eaten of the tree of knowledge is that it must know

that we cannot learn the meaning of the world from the results of its analysis (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, Tijdschrift Sociologie, and Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion.


Dick Houtman’s principal research interests are cultural conflict and cultural change in the West since the 1960s, particularly in the realms of politics (due to the emergence of a political culture that foregrounds culture and identity rather than economic class interests) and religion (due to the shift from institutional allegiance, religious belief and doctrine to spiritual experience). More generally conceived, he is interested in the multifarious cultural manifestations and the wide-ranging social consequences of a Romantic turn that has profoundly transformed the West since the 1960s.


As a cultural sociologist, Dick Houtman aims to expose intellectual pretensions of ‘true’ meaning, hawked as solidly grounded beyond culture and history, as moral discourse disguised as science. He considers himself neither a social or cultural theorist, nor a methodologist, but firmly believes that the cross-fertilization of theoretical ideas and empirical research constitutes the only feasible road to worthwhile sociological knowledge. As to teaching in higher education, his philosophy is simple enough: students should not be made to slavishly reproduce or apply other people’s ideas, but trained to think for themselves and conduct original empirical research.


Last updated in January 2021