Vanguards, sacralisation of politics, and totalitarianism: Category-based epistemology and political religion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article overviews the current debate on ‘political religion’ as it relates to totalitarian regimes. Beginning by contrasting Emilio Gentile’s ‘sacralisation of politics’ thesis with Richard Shorten’s critiques of ‘political religion’ as a concept, this article discusses the specific role of vanguard party organisation in the ‘sacralising’ of political systems. Founded upon ‘category- based epistemology’ – where a special, ‘universal’ part of mass society has unique access to truth – and maintained by vanguard organisations populated by professional revolutionaries, totalitarian movements/regimes create practices and self-conceptualisation analogous to religion. This article also addresses the (dis)similarities between religion and political religion, providing some boundaries in which the ‘political religion’ concept is useful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-540
Number of pages20
JournalPolitics, Religion and Ideology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Molecular Biology
  • Religious studies

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