Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World

Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World

Copyright Date: 2006
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 800
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    Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World
    Book Description:

    What has happened to religion in its present manifestations? In recent years, Enlightenment secularization, as it appeared in the global spread of political structures that relegate the sacred to a private sphere, seems suddenly to have foundered. Unexpectedly, it has discovered its own parochialism-has discovered, indeed, that secularization may never have taken place at all.With the return of the religious,in all aspects of contemporary social, political, and religious life, the question of political theology-of the relation between politicaland religiousdomains-takes on new meaning and new urgency. In this groundbreaking book, distinguished scholars from many disciplines-philosophy, political theory, anthropology, classics, and religious studies-seek to take the full measure of this question in today's world. This book begins with the place of the gods in the Greek polis, then moves through Augustine's two cities and early modern religious debates, to classic statements about political theology by such thinkers as Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt. Essays also consider the centrality of tolerance to liberal democracy, the recent French controversy over wearing the Muslim headscarf, and Bush's God talk.The volume includes a historic discussion between Jrgen Habermas and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, concerningthe prepolitical moral foundations of a republic, and it concludes with explorations of new, more open ways of conceptualizing society.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-4834-6
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
    Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan
  4. Introduction: Before, Around, and Beyond the Theologico-Political
    (pp. 1-88)
    Hent de Vries

    What has happened to “religion” in its present and increasingly public manifestation, propelled by global media, economic markets, and foreign policies as much as by resistance to them? How should we understand the worldwide tendencies toward the simultaneous homogenizationandpluralization of our social and cultural practices, that is to say, of our individual and shared forms and ways of life? To answer these questions, we must interrogate a complex and shifting semantic, axiological, and imaginative archive, whose historical origins and modern disseminations have pragmatic ramifications for burning contemporary issues of the political (le politique) and politics (la politique), of...

    • The Gods of Politics in Early Greek Cities
      (pp. 91-101)
      Marcel Detienne

      I have decided to speak of “the gods” rather than “religion,” and of the “political domain [le politique]” to identify the specific domain that has been recognized as such (astō politikōn) ever since Aristotle. As for the earliest Greek cities, they constitute the area of my present fieldwork.

      No doubt you thought “Presumably, he’s a Hellenist” . . . and there is surely nothing shameful about being a Hellenist. All the same, I should like to make it clear that, very early on, I was lucky enough to embark upon comparative studies. What kind of comparative studies? The kind...

    • Church, State, Resistance
      (pp. 102-112)
      Jean-Luc Nancy

      The separation of church and state is the French expression, linked to the dominant Catholic Church in that country, used to signify the complete differentiation between the laws [droits] and powers of the religious order (whether ecclesiatical or constituted in another way) and the political order. In any civil or public matter, the political order is understood to prevail; whereas in any religious matter—henceforth considered to be private or having to do with an intimacy of conscience—the authority exercised is defined by a religious instance to which anyone is free to adhere.

      Today this separation is recognized as...

    • Politics and Finitude: The Temporal Status of Augustine’s Civitas Permixta
      (pp. 113-121)
      M. B. Pranger

      If, generally speaking, readers’ and writers’ attitudes toward the autobiographical genre can be characterized as naïve in that they take for granted the sincerity of the author, it is even harder for historians to be professionally effective without taking their products to be authentic reflections of time. There is a sense, however, in which histories of the state, histories of the church, and, indeed, histories of great institutions at large are so many contradictions in terms, at least if state and church are taken—as they are bound to be—to be bodies whose temporal existence transcends the moment, to...

    • The Scandal of Religion: Luther and Public Speech in the Reformation
      (pp. 122-136)
      Antónia Szabari

      Although Luther is generally viewed as the creator of a homogeneous, modern German vernacular, after even a cursory sampling of passages in his immense oeuvre, one is struck by how artificial, hybrid, and strange his language is. Luther mixes Latin and German, biblical references and vernacular idioms, and blessings and curses. This mixing of registers was not entirely unprecedented in the sixteenth century—for example, the French author Rabelais did the same—but its effect on public speech was. Trained in the liberal arts and in the canonical literature of the Church, and being a particularly astute reader and translator...

    • On the Names of God
      (pp. 137-147)
      Ernesto Laclau

      God is nameless for no one can either speak of him or know him. . . . Accordingly, if I say that “God is good,” this is not true. I am good, but God is not good! In fact, I would rather say that I am better than God, for what is good can become better and what can become better can become the best! Now God is not good, and so he cannot become better, he cannot become the best. These three are far from God: “good,” “better,” “best,” for he is wholly transcendent. . . . Also you...

    • The Permanence of the Theologico-Political?
      (pp. 148-187)
      Claude Lefort

      There was, in the nineteenth century, a widespread and lasting conviction that one cannot discern the transformations that occur in political society—that one cannot really take stock of what is appearing, disappearing, or reappearing—without examining the religious significance of the old and the new. In both France and Germany, philosophy, history, the novel, and poetry all testify to that. This conviction is not, of course, entirely new, and it can be traced far back in history. I am not thinking of the work of theologians and jurists, or of their disputations over the links between the authority of...

    • Violence in the State of Exception: Reflections on Theologico-Political Motifs in Benjamin and Schmitt
      (pp. 188-200)
      Marc de Wilde

      Two months after the events of September 11, President George W. Bush issued a Military Order authorizing the “indefinite detention” of certain noncitizens in the “war on terror.”¹ The Military Order effectively resulted in the suspension of fundamental rights of “enemy aliens,” such as the right to be brought before an impartial tribunal within forty-eight hours and to seek the assistance of an attorney, and eventually legitimized a biopolitical violence against those detained at U.S. interrogation centers in Guantánamo Bay, Baghram, and Abu Ghraib. In his recent bookState of Exception(2005) , Giorgio Agamben argues that Bush’s Military Order...

    • Critique, Coercion, and Sacred Life in Benjamin’s “Critique of Violence”
      (pp. 201-219)
      Judith Butler

      I would like to take up the question of violence, more specifically, the question of what a critique of violence might be. What meaning does the termcritiquetake on when it becomes a critique of violence? A critique of violence is an inquiry into the conditions for violence, but it is also an interrogation of how violence is circumscribed in advance by the questions we pose of it. What is violence, then, such that we can pose this question of it, and do we not need to know how to handle this question before we ask, as we must,...

    • From Rosenzweig to Levinas: Philosophy of War
      (pp. 220-231)
      Stéphane Mosès

      It seems that through the work of Franz Rosenzweig, and subsequently that of Emmanuel Levinas, the twentieth century has seen the birth of a radically new conception of ethics. It appeared against the horizon of the two great historical catastrophes that left their mark upon that century, the First World War, in the case of Rosenzweig, and in that of Levinas, the Second World War and the massive extermination of the Jews by Nazi Germany. Rosenzweig’s generation experienced the First World War as the collapse of an age-old order bearing testimony to the stability of a European civilization that, wars...

    • Levinas, Spinoza, and the Theologico-Political Meaning of Scripture
      (pp. 232-248)
      Hent de Vries

      At intervals of about ten years, Levinas devoted articles to Spinoza.¹ At first glance, these readings stand out for their critical, indeed, polemical tone. In his 1955 “The Case of Spinoza” Levinas accepts Jacob Gordin’s summary verdict: “Spinoza was guilty of betrayal [il existe une trahison de Spinoza]¹ (108 / 155–56). Indeed, in this text we find an even more startling hypothesis, that, by “proposing that Spinoza’s trial be reopened,” Israel’s founding father, David Ben-Gurion, was, Levinas surmises, “seeking to question—more effectively than the missionaries installed in Israel—the great certainty of our history; which ultimately, for Mr....

    • On the Relations Between the Secular Liberal State and Religion
      (pp. 251-260)
      Jürgen Habermas

      The suggested theme for our discussion today is reminiscent of a question that Ernst Wolfgang Böckenförde, in the mid-1960s, succinctly put as follows: Is the liberal secular state nourished by normative preconditions that it cannot itself guarantee?¹ The question expresses doubt that the democratic constitutional state can renew the normative preconditions of its existence out of its own resources. It also voices the conjecture that the state is dependent upon autochthonous conceptual or religious traditions—in any case, collectively binding ethical traditions. Were the doubt substantiated and the conjecture proven true, the state would find itself in trouble, for it...

    • Prepolitical Moral Foundations of a Free Republic
      (pp. 261-268)
      Pope Benedict XVI

      In the acceleration of the tempo of historical developments in which we live, two factors, it seems to me, stand out above all others as characteristics of a development that, earlier, began only slowly. The first is the formation of a world society in which individual political, economic, and cultural powers depend, more and more, on each other, and come into contact and permeate each other in their different spheres of life. The other is the development of man’s possibilities, of his power to make and to destroy, possibilities that, exceeding everything to which we have previously been accustomed, raise...

    • Bush’s God Talk
      (pp. 269-277)
      Bruce Lincoln

      Most discussions of George W. Bush’s religious faith draw heavily on his campaign autobiography,A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House(1999), which puts religion at the beginning, middle, and end of the story.¹ Deliberately vague in its chronology, the book describes a man who drifted until middle age, when Billy Graham “planted a mustard seed” in his soul and helped turn his life around.² Modifying the conventions of conversion narratives, the book acknowledges Bush’s youthful indiscretions but downplays the nature and severity of his sins. It does not single out one decisive, born-again moment, but describes...

    • Pluralism and Faith
      (pp. 278-297)
      William E. Connolly

      Straussianism is the only professorial movement in the United States that has attained the standing of a public philosophy. Since at least the late 1970s, its proponents have not only played a significant role in the academy but have served as advisers to the president when a Republican holds office and as talking heads on news channels such as Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC when Republicans are in or out of office. The tendency is to counsel respect, in the name of civic virtue, for the presidency when a Republican holds office and to subject the incumbent to sharp critique...

    • Subjects of Tolerance: Why We Are Civilized and They Are the Barbarians
      (pp. 298-317)
      Wendy Brown

      In recent years, culture has become a cardinal object of tolerance and intolerance. This is not only because liberal democratic societies have become increasingly multicultural as a consequence of late-modern population flows and the affirmation of cultural difference over assimilation. It is also because political conflict has become, in Mahmood Mamdani’s phrase, “culturalized”: “It is no longer the market (capitalism), nor the state (democracy), but culture (modernity) that is said to be the dividing line between those in favor of a peaceful, civic existence and those inclined to terror.”¹ Mamdani credits Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis with conceptually catapulting culture...

    • Religion, Liberal Democracy, and Citizenship
      (pp. 318-326)
      Chantal Mouffe

      Contrary to what many liberals had predicted, instead of becoming obsolete thanks to the development of “post conventional identities” and the increasing role of rationality in human behavior, religious forms of identification currently play a growing role in many societies. Yet the question of what should be the place of the church in a liberal democracy is a burning issue in several of the new Eastern European democracies. It seems, therefore, that the old controversy about the relationship between religion and politics, far from being on the wane, is again on the agenda.

      My aim in this paper is to...

    • Toleration Without Tolerance: Enlightenment and the Image of Reason
      (pp. 327-340)
      Lars Tønder

      Contemporary attempts to justify tolerance and toleration converge on the importance of reason. The argument for this, on behalf of what we might call the “model of reasonable toleration,” is that reason is available to everyone who is willing to give to others what they want for themselves. Its laws apply universally, and even though its results are more reliable than those that come from other sources of knowledge, it is always open to revision. This makes it the right candidate for being the “neutral” yet “case-sensitive” arbitrator in societies with conflicting notions of the common good. As Rainer Forst,...

    • Saint John: The Miracle of Secular Reason
      (pp. 341-362)
      Matthew Scherer

      JOHN RAWLS IS A SAINT. In the words of Amy Gutmann, who remarked, when delivering his eulogy, that she felt “privileged to have lived in his time,” Rawls was “saintly as well as wise.”¹ Within certain communities of political theorists, such sentiment appears to be widespread, as is evident from expressions of personal admiration in the wake of Rawls’s death. The general fact of this sentiment presents a number of problems, not only for a highly private man who by all accounts went to great lengths to avoid celebrity, let alone sainthood, but also for secular liberals who share in...

    • Reinhabiting Civil Disobedience
      (pp. 365-381)
      Bhrigupati Singh

      To clarify it again, what, then, is the difference between religion and philosophy? A core distinction would be that the latter can subsist without a conception of the divine. In other words, philosophy does not necessitate a conception of another, higher world, with which to slander or to beautify, or to authorize its work in this world. It need not traffic in super-earthly hopes. Of what consequence then, is this emergent conception of a “post-secular” world where it is religion that is (so much stronger? or only more distinctly?) an intervening force in the practical affairs of this world, enmeshed...

    • Rogue Democracy and the Hidden God
      (pp. 382-400)
      Samuel Weber

      “America will have been my subject”—it is almost in passing, and yet with considerable emphasis, that Jacques Derrida makes this announcement early on in a lecture that was to become the major portion ofRogues(Voyous).¹ And yet the passing remark could hardly have been more significant. America—in particular, the United States—always held a special importance for Derrida’s work.² It was in American universities that Derridean “deconstruction” first began to establish its international reputation, and it was also in the United States that the backlash against deconstruction first emerged and then crystallized in connection with the revelations...

    • Intimate Publicities: Retreating the Theologico-Political in the Chávez Regime?
      (pp. 401-426)
      Rafael Sánchez

      On January 10, 2001, television screens across Venezuela filled with an extraordinary image: surrounded by a forest of microphones and journalists, the nation’s Defense Prime Minister, General Ismael Eliécer Hurtado Soucre, suddenly produced and held up in his right hand a pair of lightly colored women’s panties, which he waved at the cameras while delivering a volley of fiery accusations against enemies of the regime. In the wake of the avid succession of flash pans that greeted the general’s press-conference revelations, and after brief hesitation, most members of the audience burst into irrepressible laughter. Soon that laughter would be echoed...

    • The Figure of the Abducted Woman: The Citizen as Sexed
      (pp. 427-443)
      Veena Das

      Writing in 1994, Gyanendra Pandey, the well-known historian of the subaltern, took the neglect of the Partition in the social sciences and in Indian public culture to be a symptom of a deep malaise.¹ Historical writing in India, he argued, was singularly uninterested in the popular construction of Partition, the trauma it produced, and the sharp division between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs it left behind. He attributed this blindness to the fact that the historian’s craft has never been particularly comfortable with such matters as “the horror of Partition, the anguish and sorrow, pain and brutality of the ‘riots’ of...

    • How to Recognize a Muslim When You See One: Western Secularism and the Politics of Conversion
      (pp. 444-474)
      Markha G. Valenta

      The problem is not the veil itself. For more than a thousand years, Muslims, Christians, and Jews engaged each other (and before them Persians, Greeks, and Romans) without its becoming an issue. Only an odd hundred years ago, in the second decade of Europe’s colonization of the Islamic worlds, did this simple piece of cloth on a woman’s head become a primary site of attack and counterattack. Since then, the veil has been an astoundingly pregnant source of social, political, religious, and judicial conflict. The question is: Why?

      The first point to note is that the veil’s prominence in the...

    • Laïcité, or the Politics of Republican Secularism
      (pp. 475-493)
      Markha G. Valenta

      Laïcité—the French version of secularism, which insists on the strict separation of church and state or, more generally, of politics and religion—has become well known internationally in the context of the March 2004 law prohibiting pupils at public schools from wearing “signes religieux ostensibles [conspicuous religious signs].”¹ Historically, however, it is important to view laïcité, in the context of the struggle between Catholicism and Republicanism during the first decades of the Third Republic (1870–1905). This contextualization will allow us to critique the use of laïcité, but also of secularism more generally, as a frame within which to...

    • Trying to Understand French Secularism
      (pp. 494-526)
      Talal Asad

      In modern society there is typically a multiplicity of religious beliefs and identities, and—so we are told—they can be held together only by a formal separation between religious belonging and political status, and by the allocation of religious belief to the private sphere. To be fully part of a democratic community, citizens holding different religious beliefs (or none) must share values that enable them to have a common political life. These values reflect the unity of the state that represents them. Without shared values there can be no integration, without integration no political stability, without some measure of...

    • Pim Fortuyn, Theo van Gogh, and the Politics of Tolerance in the Netherlands
      (pp. 527-538)
      Peter van der Veer

      In August 2004, a short film that dealt with the theme of violence against women in Islamic societies was broadcast on Dutch television. The key scene showed four topless women in transparent clothing; their bodies had been covered with calligraphically inscribed verses from the Koran that legitimate the subjection of women. Working from a script written by Member of Parliament Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the filmmaker Theo van Gogh had created the ten-minute movieSubmission, a direct translation of the wordIslam. Van Gogh had a long-established reputation for being a provocateur, which included insulting the Jewish community and references to...

    • Can a Minority Retain Its Identity in Law? The 2005 Multatuli Lecture
      (pp. 539-556)
      Job Cohen

      It is an honor and a pleasure for me to address you here today in the Grote Kerk of Breda in the context of the 2005 Multatuli Lecture. The theme about which I have been asked to say something is: Can a minority retain its identity in law?

      Since this is the Multatuli Lecture, let me start out from his work, with a quote from “Idea Number 7” about the relationship of majorities to minorities:

      Ruling by a majority of votes is the law of the strongest applied amicably. It means: if we fought, we would win . . . so let’s skip...

    • Prophetic Justice in a Home Haunted by Strangers: Transgressive Solidarity and Trauma in the Work of an Israeli Rabbis’ Group
      (pp. 557-588)
      Bettina Prato

      What does it mean to practice a peace activism simultaneously rooted in Judaism and in human rights, in a context in which trauma-influenced readings of Jewish identity are invoked to justify violating the rights of other people(s)?¹ How can the language of universal rights be reconciled with a belief in Jewish uniqueness that includes a history of exceptional suffering and a divinely granted claim to a Promised Land inhabited by others? And, most importantly, what are the theoretical and practical consequences of affirming not just the possibility but the need for such reconciliation in the name of Jewish identity itself,...

    • Mysticism and the Foundation of the Open Society: Bergsonian Politics
      (pp. 591-601)
      Paola Marrati

      In his 1920 Oxford lecture “The Possible and the Real” (published in 1934 inLa Pensée et le mouvant, rather unhappily translated asThe Creative Mind¹), Bergson returns to a question of method: the importance of the position of problems in philosophy. Solutions, or answers to problems, are implied in the way in which problems are stated; they are their empirical results. It is critical, then, to avoid the danger of the confusion resulting from “badly put or badly analyzed problems.” Philosophy, or at least its significance, stands or falls with the problems it is capable of setting up. Among...

    • The Agency of Assemblages and the North American Blackout
      (pp. 602-616)
      Jane Bennett

      One thing that globalization names is the sense that the “theater of operations” has expanded greatly. Earth is no longer a category for ecology or geology only, but has become a political unit, the whole in which the parts (e.g., finance capital, CO2emissions, refugees, viruses, pirated DVDs, ozone, human rights, weapons of mass destruction) now circulate. There have been various attempts to theorize this complex, gigantic whole and to characterize the kind of relationality obtaining between its parts. Network is one such attempt, as is Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s empire.¹ My term of choice to describe this whole...

    • Automatic Theologies: Surrealism and the Politics of Equality
      (pp. 617-632)
      Kate Khatib

      To write about surrealism and theology seems an almost heretical act, on both sides of the equation. Like other Romantic and post-Romantic artistic movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, surrealism owes a debt to mysticism and the occult that is already widely acknowledged, as is the occurrence of religious symbolism throughout its corpus. Were these works of art equal to the sum total of the surrealist interventions in the theological realm, there would be little more to discuss. A less cursory inspection reveals, however, that the presentation of surrealism as a fleeting moment in the artistic history...

    • Theoscopy: Transparency, Omnipotence, and Modernity
      (pp. 633-651)
      Stefanos Geroulanos

      To be forever seen without seeing back is to succumb to a mercy and grace carved in religious force, to walk in fear and faith of a tremendous power one cannot face. It is to live a paranoid existence of nakedness before a God who is all-seeing, hence omniscient and omnipotent, and who accordingly metes out a social experience and aknowledge of oneself and one’s history that is based on this awareness of being seen. I will name this conditiontheoscopy. Widespread from patristic texts to contemporary media artifacts and works of social theory, theoscopy involves the establishment of a...

    • Come On, Humans, One More Effort if You Want to Be Post-Christians!
      (pp. 652-670)
      Thierry de Duve

      In the spring of 2003, the news came from the diocese of Helsingoer—Hamlet’s country, quite appropriately—that Thorkild Grosboell, a theologian and minister in the Lutheran Church of Denmark, was an atheist. The pastor later retracted, but the fact remains: he had publicly stated that he believed neither in God the creator of the world, nor in the resurrection of Christ, nor in the eternal life of the soul. Mr. Grosboell is my post-Christian hero. I sincerely hope that history will remember his name as that of a pioneer in a new kind of enlightenment. To see the existence...

    • The Right Not to Use Rights: Human Rights and the Structure of Judgments
      (pp. 671-690)
      Werner Hamacher

      The claim that human rights arerightsand that they are the rights ofhuman beingsmeans two things. First, it means that they apply neither to the empirical totality of a bio- or zoological species nor to any individuals as the privileged (because exemplary) instances of such a species but rather to the human “as such” or “in truth.” Human rights do not define man in his historically contingent appearance, but rather provide an explication of human essence as it presents itself in and of itself after all external attributes have been subtracted. Only human rights present man in...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 691-696)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 697-796)