03 March 2010

Recent articles on political theology, second installment

Here's a second installment of recent articles (this will be a recurrent feature from now on):

Wolfram Malte Fues (University of Basel), "The Foe. The Radical Evil. Political Theology in Immanuel Kant and Carl Schmitt", The Philosophical Forum, 41 (1-2), spring/summer 2010: pp. 181-204.

Excerpt: "'In a few weeks' time, I shall surprise you with a new work by Kant that will very much astound you,' Friedrich Schiller writes to his friend Christian Gottfried Körner on February 28, 1793, referring to Immanuel Kant's Religion within the Boundaries of Mere Reason. 'One of the fundamental principles held in it, however, outrages my [...] feelings. For he [Kant, W.M.F.] asserts a propensity of the human heart to evil, which he calls the radical evil, and which under no circumstances must be confused with the stimuli of the sensuous nature. He places it above and beyond the sensuous, in man's spiritual nature, as the locus of freedom.' No sooner has self-enlightening reason drawn religion into its bounds, than it breaks with the old Manichaean-Christian dogma of evil as the sin of the flash against the spirit. Reason starts seeking evil within itself, within its principle of self-determination, and hence at the very 'locus of freedom.' A Janus-faced reason, which, entirely by its freedom of choice, conceals good behind evil, evil behind good? Whose 'progress in the consciousness of freedom' can lead us into paradise just as well as into utter catastrophe? It is not surprising that this radical evil fascinates Schiller as much as it outrages him. Let us investigate the causes for Schiller's conflicting sensations and their interconnection."

Geoffrey Waite (Cornell University), "Kant, Schmitt or Fues on Political Theology, Radical Evil and the Foe (pour une philosophie buissonière et parallactique)", The Philosophical Forum, 41 (1-2), spring/summer 2010: pp. 205-27.

No abstract or excerpt given.

R.R. Reno (Creighton University), "Lawe, loue and lewete: The Kenotic Vision of Traditional Christian Political Theology", in "Crisis, Call, and Leadership in the Abrahamic Tradition", eds. Peter Ochs and William Stacy Johnson (Palgrave Macmillan, December 2009): pp. 169-83.


Excerpt: "My purpose, then, is to show how [William Langland's late medieval poem] Piers Plowman and its allegorical dream sequences function as a scripturally reasoned response to the cry of the poor that gives spiritual transformation priority over social change. I begin with a brief account of the argument of Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, and then I move to an exposition of the social analysis present in Langland's poem. In conclusion, I will gesture toward the question of how my interpretation of Piers Plowman might inform a postliberal effort to restore scriptural reasoning to a foundational role in forming our social consciences."

Jacob Schiff (University of Chicago), "From Anti-Liberal to Untimely Liberal: Leo Strauss' Two Critiques of Liberalism", Philosophy & Social Criticism, 36 (2), February 2010: pp. 157-81.

Abstract: "Leo Strauss' ubiquitous presence in recent US foreign policy debates demands a thorough analysis of his critique of liberalism. I identify and explain a previously unnoticed transformation in that critique. Strauss' Weimar critique of liberalism was philosophical and political; like Carl Schmitt, he sought philosophical grounds to replace liberalism with an authoritarian political system. However, post-emigration Strauss abandoned this political agenda, exclusively pursuing a philosophical critique that exposed modern liberalism's purported weaknesses in order to strengthen its core. I accentuate this change by reading Strauss' postwar lecture, 'The Three Waves of Modernity', as an implicit response to and reconstruction of Schmitt's 'Neutralizations and Depoliticizations' essay. Strauss' changing relationship to political theology and political philosophy was central to his transformation: while a philosophically grounded political theology undergirded his early disdain for liberalism, Strauss later abandoned political theology for a quasi-theological faith in political philosophy that motivated his more moderate, philosophical critique."

Govert J. Buijs (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), "The Souls of Europe", LIMES: Cultural Regionalistics, 2 (2), 2009: pp. 126-39.

Abstract: "How should Europe deal politically with its legacy as a so-called 'Christian civilization'? Should this imply an overt reference to God or to the Christian or Judeo-Christian tradition in European constitutional documents (as was debated when the so-called 'Treaty Establishing a Constitution for Europe' was tabled)? This debate raised the old 'politico-theological problem': does a political order need some kind of metaphysical or religious grounding, a 'soul', or can it present itself as a purely rational order, the result of a utilitarian calculus? In this article it is argued that the secular idea of the state as an inherent element in the 'Judeo-Christian tradition', for a 'divine state' usurps a place that is only God's. So, this religious tradition itself calls for a secular state, and this inherent relationship between religion and secularity has become a key element for the interpretation of European civilization, most notably in the idea of a separation of the church and the state. But the very fact that this is a religious idea does imply that the European political order cannot be seen as a purely rational political order without a soul. The idea of a 'plural soul' is proposed as a way out of the dilemma."

Shmuel Trigano (University Paris X Nanterre), "The Return of the Theological-Political in Democracy and the Rediscovery of Biblical Politics", Hebraic Political Studies, 4 (3), summer 2009: pp. 304-18. Available online:


Abstract: "The Spinozist moment was a turning point for democratic theory. It reduced the biblical heritage of political philosophy to mere theology and thus founded the 'autonomy of politics' so brilliantly theorized by Rousseau in his 'Social Contract.' Yet Spinoza and Rousseau could not found their system without reintroducing (an immanent or secularized) transcendence to politics, such that a kind of reenchantment, in the form of civil and political religions, has occurred in modern politics. These are crucial matters to consider today, as this transcendence so crucial to the foundations of democracy is collapsing. To confront this problem, one might consider that Spinoza theoretically founded democracy by expelling the biblical, and its rediscovery today might help us think through the present crisis."

Martín Plot, "The Democratico-Political: Social Flesh and Political Forms in Lefort and Merleau-Ponty", Theory & Event, 12 (4), 2009, no page numbers given.

Excerpt: "Modern democracy is an enigma. It is an enigma because, being born out of the split of the theological and the political, it places society face to face with its own institution. In theologico-political orders, societies take themselves for granted, they see themselves as a unity guaranteed by the objectifying gaze of God. Modern democracies, in contrast, confront the ambiguity proper of a being that becomes an entity before its own gaze – a two-dimensional, reversible being, a seer that is also a visible. No longer being a heteronomously constituted object, now the body politic becomes both a subject and an object, a flesh in the gaze of itself. In order to understand this mutation and the advent of the form of society that I will call democratico-political, one of my articulating strategies will be the uncovering of the implicit dimensions – and the exploration of the political potentialities – of Maurice Merleau-Ponty's concept of flesh."

Paul W. Kahn (Yale Law School), "Torture and Democratic Violence", Ratio Juris, 22 (2), June 2009: pp. 244-59.

Abstract: "To understand the problem of torture in a democratic society, we have to take up a political-theological perspective. We must ask how violence creates political meaning. Torture is no more destructive and no more illiberal than other forms of political violence. The turn away from torture was not a turn away from violence, but a change in the locus of sacrifice: from scaffold to battlefield. Torture had been a ritual of mediation between sovereign and subject. Once sovereignty is located in the people, it no longer makes sense to speak of being sacrificed for the sovereign. Instead, sovereign presence is now realized in an act of self-sacrifice. The wars of modern nation-states have been acts of reciprocal self-sacrifice. Terror invokes torture in response because both speak a primitive language of political sacrifice, denying the enemy the privilege of self-sacrifice."

Gerard Mannion (Catholic University of Leuven), "A Brief Genealogy of Public Theology, Or Doing Theology when it Seems Nobody is Listening ...", Annali di Studi Religiosi, 10, November 2009: pp. 121-54.

Abstract: "This paper seeks to introduce the background to public theology, offering some reflections upon its origins, history, methodologies, as well as the recent state of public theology as a sub-discipline in its own right. After a brief discussion of the scope and definitions of public theology, the paper will offer a genealogical account of the origins and development of what is today termed 'public theology', throughout key periods of the history of the church. A discussion of the emergence of the sense of public theology as a sub-discipline in its own right in the later stages of the twentieth century will follow. Then, the paper will offer a tentative 'typology' of recent forms of public theology, before offering some suggestive conclusions concerning the most fruitful direction in which theological contributions to the wider public arena might progress."

Nimi Wariboko (Andover Newton Theological School), "Ethical Methodology: Between Public Theology and Public Policy", Journal of Religion and Business Ethics, 1 (1), 2009: article 4. Available online:


Abstract: "That public theology is relevant to public policy debates and formulation should be self-evident. After all, public theologians aspire to develop ethical frameworks and discourses about how we should live together in plural civil societies. They offer public theology as a form of discourse. Unfortunately, they have largely failed to explicitly develop a procedural method of ethical analysis relevant to public policy decision-making. This paper proposes an ethical methodology as a form of public discourse, a meta-ethical model showing how themes, concerns, and insights of public theology can be systematically organized into practical policy arguments. It provides a robust 'mechanics' to aid public theologians prepare ethical analyses for public policies."

Nico N. Koopman (Stellenbosch University), "For God So Loved the World ... Some Contours for Public Theology in South Africa", Dutch Reformed Theological Journal/Nederduitse Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif, 50 (3-4), December 2009: pp. 409-26.

Abstract: "After a brief autobiographical outline of the author's involvement in public theology, this article argues in favour of a critical and constructive public theology, which reflects upon the role of Christian faith in public life in the young South African democracy and in other democratic societies. It offers some crucial contours for the development of public theology. It firstly calls attention to different approaches to and emphases in public theology. With different emphases and methodologies the three central questions of public theology regarding the inherent public nature of God's love for the world, the public rationality of this love, and the public implications of God's love for the world, are addressed. Public theology is secondly described as an intra-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and transdisciplinary scholarly practice. In the formulation of a third contour the possibilities of what [p]ublic theology might become are discussed, namely a theological discipline, subdiscipline, research field, curriculum organiser, catalyst or a new contextual theology. In two final sections the publics of public theology and the contemporary agenda of public theology are discussed."

David Novak (University of Toronto), "The Theopolitics of Abraham Joshua Heschel", Modern Judaism, 29 (1), February 2009: pp. 106-16.

Excerpt: "My late revered teacher, Abraham Joshua Heschel, even today is probably best remembered by many for his political activism during the 1960s and the early 1970s. Whenever newsreels taken during that time are shown again, one will inevitably see Heschel alongside Martin Luther King Jr. in the march from Selma, Alabama, or one will frequently see Heschel marching in front of the White House protesting the war in Vietnam. Yet there is little in Heschel's earlier work, written or oral, to intimate that, let alone how, he would move into this kind of public role in the last years of his life".

Yaniv Belhassen (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev) and Jonathan Ebel (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaigne), "Tourism, Faith and Politics in the Holy Land: An Ideological Analysis of Evangelical Pilgrimage", Current Issues in Tourism, 12 (4), July 2009: pp. 359-78.

Abstract: "This article aims to enhance the discussion of the role of ideology in the development of tourism practices through a closer examination of the case of Christian pilgrimage. The analysis focuses on the theo-political ideology of Christian Zionism and its roles and manifestations in the context of evangelical pilgrimages to Israel. Findings suggest that ideological dynamics within the development of these tours can be discussed by distinguishing between four tourism actors, namely, ideological organizations, tour organizers, Israeli officials, and the tourists. We suggest that these actors can be differentiated from each other in accordance with their ideological roles and orientations. Additionally, by demonstrating the similar utilization of pilgrimage by theo-political opponents of Christian Zionism, such as Sabeel and FOSNA, this article illustrates how pilgrimage to the Holy Land has become an arena for competition between these two rival ideologies within the Evangelical movement. The article concludes with a discussion on the role of pilgrimages to Israel as a platform through which theo-political ideologies are manifested, distributed, utilized, and consumed."

Benjamin H. Bratton (University of California, San Diego), "On Geoscapes and the Google Caliphate: Reflections on the Mumbai Attacks", Theory, Culture & Society, 26 (7-8), December 2009:
pp. 329-42.

Abstract: "When advanced technologies of globalization that are closely associated with secular cosmopolitics are opportunistically employed by fundamentalist politico-theologies for their own particular purposes, an essential irresolution of territory, jurisdiction and programmatic projection is revealed. Where some may wish to identify an ideal correspondence between a global political sphere into which multiple differences might be adjudicated and the visual, geographic representation of a single planetary space, this conjunction is dubious and highly conditional. Instead multiple territorial projections and competing claims on space are also generative of the very qualities of the spatial as a political medium altogether. For example, the well-publicized use of satellite-based mapping and telecommunications tools, such as Google Earth, by the terrorist group that attacked Mumbai in November 2008, raises several knotty and important questions about how contrary comprehensive images of the world can make use of one another in ways that undermine the 'unitotality' of global territory. It is not that Google and Jihad are 'equivalent' or even 'translatable', but rather because they are not, they are in practice interoperable. Instead links between urbanism, cosmography, and the socialization of planetary software networks demonstrate the centrality of design to the ongoing fashioning of the territory of territories, the geoscape."

Ana Belén Soage (University of Granada), "Introduction to Political Islam", Religion Compass, 3 (5), September 2009: pp. 887-96.

Abstract: "This paper explores how and why Islamism (i.e. political Islam) emerged in the last decades of the 19th century. It resorts to original sources to illustrate Muslim responses to the perceived threat of Westernisation and, notably, the development of Islamism as a reaction to the evolving socio-political conditions in the Middle East. In addition, it demonstrates that, despite claims to religious purity, Islamists have incorporated elements of the foreign ideologies they profess to oppose. The article ends by providing a tentative classification of modern-day Islamists."

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