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The Disclosure of Politics

The Disclosure of Politics: Struggles Over the Semantics of Secularization

María Pía Lara
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  • Book Info
    The Disclosure of Politics
    Book Description:

    Postmodern political critiques speak of the death of ideology, the end of history, and the postsecular return of religious attitudes, yet radical conservative theorists such as Mark Lilla argue religion and politics are inextricably intertwined. Returning much-needed uncertainty to debates over the political while revitalizing the very terms in which they are defined, María Pía Lara explores the ambiguity of secularization and the theoretical potential of a structural break between politics and religion.

    For Lara, secularization means three things: the translation of religious semantics into politics; a transformation of religious notions into political ideas; and the reoccupation of a space left void by changing political actors that gives rise to new conceptions of political interaction. Conceptual innovation redefines politics as a horizontal relationship between governments and the governed and better enables societies (and individual political actors) to articulate meaning through action -- that is, through the emergence of new concepts. These actions, Lara proves, radically transform our understanding of politics and the role of political agents and are further enhanced by challenging the structural dependence of politics on religious phenomena.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53504-5
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Recently, Charles Taylor, among others, has written about the different meanings that are attached to the concept of secularization.¹ It seems clear from his analysis that we have only just become aware of the difficulties and problems that the term secularization suggests. The apparent separation of church and state and the ways we think about how religion and politics might interact are now open questions. Indeed, it is no longer unusual to see that political theorists from both the left and right are prepared to give up what we once took for granted, namely, the fact that, in modernity, religion...

  5. 1 The Semantics of Conceptual Change: The Emergence of the Concept of Emancipation
    (pp. 29-58)

    My focus in this chapter is on conceptual history and on innovation in political theory. First, I must say a few words about why I regard conceptual history (Begriffsgeschichte) as the most appropriate method for the subject of conceptual innovation. Gadamer’s development of hermeneutics as an interpretive method of theories and traditions proved fruitful for many areas of social knowledge.¹ The major contribution of hermeneutics is its ability to articulate the relationship between language and history as traditions. After the linguistic turn, the English school of the history of political theory, exemplified by Quentin Skinner,² developed its own versions of...

  6. 2 The Model of Translation: From Religion to Politics
    (pp. 59-69)

    Jürgen Habermas has argued that “although the assumption toward secularization holds for most of Europe, the explanatory power of the secularization hypothesis is now a matter of dispute because the causal connection between secularization and social modernization is no longer posed only as a diachronic and self-referential issue within western culture.”¹ For that reason, he continues, “the encounter with religion as a contemporary intellectual formation requires secular thought to engage in a reflection of its own origins that takes the form of a genealogy of secular post-metaphysical thought within the horizon of the Axial Age and of the discussion of...

  7. 3 Hans Blumenberg’s Reoccupational Model: Conceptual Transformation
    (pp. 70-78)

    Although Hans Blumenberg wrote the first version of The Legitimacy of the Modern Age in 1966, critical responses from Karl Löwith, Hans-Georg Gadamer, and others forced him to revise and expand his manuscript until it was finally published in 1976. Blumenberg’s book offered a different account of secularization than Löwith’s account in Meaning in History(1949, as noted in the previous chapter). Blumenberg was trying not only to develop a less negative view of the secular from that offered by Heidegger, Löwith, and Schmitt, he was also undertaking the great task of explaining that the questions raised by the moderns were...

  8. 4 Blumenberg’s Second Model: The Persistence of Mythical Narratives
    (pp. 79-98)

    Blumenberg’s second model of how humans cope with existential angst is not concerned with translations or reoccupations; it focuses on myth. And, unlike most Western philosophers, Blumenberg does not present myth as a stage that precedes logos.¹

    In her book A Philosophy of Political Myth, Chiara Bottici reminds us that the word mythosoriginally denoted “word” or “speech” and that it acquired the semantic meaning of being a narrative or a tale only in the Homeric era (eighth century bc). Thus mythoswas first conceived as synonymous with logos,² and only later did it come to mean the opposite of logos. As...

  9. 5 Hannah Arendt’s Model of the Autonomy of Politics: Semantic Innovation Through Religious Disclosure
    (pp. 99-124)

    My fourth model will be based on Hannah Arendt’s project on the autonomy of politics, as it has been developed in her essay “What Is Authority?” her book On Revolution, and essays published in the posthumous volume The Promise of Politics. As Andreas Kalyvas has observed, these writings have received less attention than others, or have been less well understood, because of the general complexity of Arendt’s positions and her intricate reconstructions of the origins of concepts.¹ It is in those writings that she also developed her positive idea of revolution. In this chapter I will demonstrate that her model...

  10. 6 Reinhart Koselleck’s Model of Secularization: The Enlightenment as Problematic
    (pp. 125-140)

    In previous chapters I have often referred to Reinhart Koselleck’s work, especially his method of conceptual history, which I consistently find useful with regard to questions of translation and innovation in the emergence of secularized forms of political concepts. Koselleck is also helpful for understanding the dynamic feedback between the formulation of a concept and the social reality that creates the space in which the concept is accepted and used. In this chapter I will focus on Koselleck’s largely negative assessment of the ways in which the problem of politics versus morality has been addressed in Enlightenment thought. Koselleck’s model...

  11. 7 Jürgen Habermas’s Innovation Model: Bringing Justice Into the Domain of Politics
    (pp. 141-165)

    In this chapter I will concentrate on Jürgen Habermas’s sociological and historical-political writings about secularization and the public sphere and show how they can be framed as his version of conceptual history. I argue that his formulation of a new political concept of justice as social inclusion can be interpreted as a disclosive model of new political relationships. I will also discuss some of Habermas’s more recent essays about translating religious contents into the public sphere, in which he addresses issues I have been dealing with in this book.¹ I will also analyze his latest efforts to radicalize his ideas...

  12. 8 The Disclosure of Politics Revisited
    (pp. 166-186)

    All human action, all political and subjective agency, entails a conceptual framework within which actors make sense of their actions and projects. The concepts I have discussed in this book entailed the disclosure of a new way of thinking about politics during the eighteenth century, which transformed the way social agents saw themselves, their experiences, and their future.¹ This process allowed them to imagine concepts such as critique, emancipation, and the political role of civil society as part of negotiating the space between their expectations and their actual political experiences. After examining six different models of secularization, it is appropriate...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 187-216)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 217-224)
  15. Index
    (pp. 225-240)