29 March 2010

Journal special issue: The Continental Shift

Creston Davis (Rollins College) is the editor of a special issue of the journal "Political Theology" titled "The Continental Shift" (11 [1], March 2010):


From Davis' introduction ("The Continental Shift", pp. 5-14): "What is at stake for political theology today? This is the basic question this issue attempts to address. It is true that the subject of political theology resists a singular definition; indeed the term functions like a nebulous concept – a Rorschach test whose ink markings are given meaning by the individual perceiver [...]. The core of the cosmic scandal to which Paul refers and whose very meaning interrupts in the void of the cross, in death as such, is love. Indeed, it is this dis-possessive exceptional scandal that ruptures the immediate fake 'universal' (law, morality, ethics, politics etc.) and founds a new universal based on the infinity of love that gives birth to rethinking the very foundations of political theology in our time. What's more, this interruption of the status quo (of the fake universal) establishes the universal-exception of the Incarnational Event, which affords the world new coordinates for how humanity is defined in a manner that radically breaks with [Carl] Schmitt's false dichotomy of friend/enemy, among other things. This radical thesis is what we may call the 'continental shift' in political theology."

Strangely, an entry on Davis' blog seems to be significantly clearer about the aim of this issue than is the introduction: "The journal issue takes seriously the thesis that Political Theology is radically open to debate; indeed this issue opens the doors of debate about the very nature of Political Theology after-Schmitt and in the wake of such Continental thinkers as Jean-Luc Nancy, Alain Badiou, J. Taubes, G. Agamben, S. Zizek and others. In light of these thinkers it is clear that the very coordinates of Political Theology has changed forever. I will argue that Schmitt's indebtedness to Hobbesian demonic version of what constitutes the theoretical space called 'the sovereign' needs to be rejected. [...] Thus the thesis of this issue is that there is no one version that defines Political Theology as such, but is rather more like a moving debate that resists a vulgar reduction down to a singular and absolutist view of 'the Political' or 'the Theological.' Political Theology is thus an inherently dynamic process and not a static boring rerun of the same episode called 'the State' or even 'Carl Schmitt' for that matter."

Articles in this special issue include:

Antonio Negri, "The Eclipse of Eschatology: Conversing with Taubes's Messianism and the Common Body" (trans. Bruno Bosteels; pp. 35-41).

Abstract: "In this article Jacob Taubes's idea of eschatology is examined. Taubes's own understanding of eschatology has profound implications on the very expression of political theology and political practice. If politics – as a practice – assumes that time has a terminal point, than it will invariably change this practice and encumber and even neutralize political action of a commonbody that gives voice to the oppressed. This article agrees with Taubes in that eschatology must announce an end to itself, which is at once a birth of a postmodern possibility of the principle of immanence in which a commonbody announces its infinite possibility. The end of eschatology is the end of transcendence and the beginning of a struggle for liberating the infinite possibility of a common-body of labor."

Kenneth Reinhard (UCLA), "There is Something of One (God): Lacan and Political Theology" (pp. 43-60).

Abstract: "For both Lacan and Badiou, Plato's Parmenides is a primary locus for the question of the One. Moreover, for both Lacan and Badiou, the One ultimately takes on political valence, as key to the problematics of representation and the discursive conditions of collectivity. However, unlike Badiou, Lacan's exploration of the question of One also passes through theology – through what I am calling 'something of One God' – and I want to argue that it is only by bringing the One into explicit relationship with those monotheistic issues that we can fully understand its implications for analytic discourse and political life. Lacan's thinking on the 'something of One [sic] takes a necessary swerve back through a theological problematic, and in the process articulates the terms of a political theology, an essential conjunction of political and religious understandings of sovereignty, subjectivity and collectivity."

Daniel M. Bell, Jr. (Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary), "The Fragile Brillance of Glass: Empire, Multitude, and the Coming Community" (pp. 61-76).

Abstract: "Michael Hardt, Antonio Negri, and Giorgio Agamben are among a handful of contemporary continental philosophers whose thought of the political proves simultaneously most salutary and vexing for the task of articulating a postliberal Augustinian political theology. Their accounts of the political problem of the early twenty-first century West are most helpful while their anticipation of democracy raises serious questions about the viability of the church as a political formation capable of escaping the clutches of the current terror. In the end I argue that the hope nurtured by Agamben, Hardt and Negri fails to hold out the promise of life beyond empire and this because finally they, and not an Augustinian church, are insufficiently democratic."

Mary-Jane Rubenstein (Wesleyan University), "Capital Shares: The Way Back into the With of Christianity" (pp. 103-19).

Abstract: "In the ten years since the publication of Michael Hardt's and Antonio Negri's *Empire*, the relationship between Christianity and global capital has received increasing theological attention among the adherents, critics, sympathizers, and apostates of Radical Orthodoxy. At stake in this conversation is the possibility that Christianity might provide a universal ontology sufficient to ground a counter-hegemonic, specifically socialist, praxis. One question that many of these authors rarely address, however, is the extent to which Christian universalism has been responsible for the emergence of global capital in the first place. This article will address this profound split at the heart of a tradition; that is, Christianity's culpability for and resistance to global capital. To this end, 'Capital Shares' sketches the aporia of Christianity's relation to Empire and then appeals to Jean-Luc Nancy's 'deconstruction of Christianity'; in particular, his attempt to find 'a source of Christianity, more original than Christianity itself, that might provoke another possibility to arise.'"

Further articles: Clayton Crockett (University of Central Arkansas) and Catherine Malabou (Paris West University Nanterre La Défense), "Plasticity and the Future of Philosophy and Theology" (pp. 15-34); C.C. Pecknold (Catholic University of America), "Migrations of the Host: Fugitive Democracy and the Corpus Mysticum" (pp. 77-101); Joshua Delpech-Ramey (Rowan University), "Supernatural Capital: A Note on the Zizek-Milbank Debate" (pp. 121-5); John Milbank (University of Nottingham), "Without Heaven There is Only Hell on Earth: 15 Verdicts on Zizek's Response" (pp. 126-35); Slavoj Zizek (University of Ljubljana/Birkbeck College), "The Atheist Wager"
(pp. 136-40).

The last three articles assess and continue the debate between John Milbank and Slavoj Žižek started in their joint book "The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?" (MIT Press, April 2009), which was equally edited by Creston Davis.

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