27 May 2010

Journal "Constellations" on "Political Theologies"

The June 2010 issue of "Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory" (17 [2]) features five articles on the theme "Political Theologies":



Bernard Flynn (State University of New York), "Political Theology and Its Vicissitudes" (pp. 185-96).

Excerpt: "In this article, I argue that the Judeo-Christian conception of 'the creation of the world from nothing' contains within itself the possibilities for the political transformation of a theological concept. It does this in two respects: on the one hand, the conception of divine providence appears in secular thought in the guise of philosophy of history. I follow Karl Löwith's path, in Meaning in History, of unmasking this secular theory as theology. On the other hand, the theological notion of creation ex nihilo becomes the political concept of the Event. In order to show the centrality of the notion of the Event in recent political thought, I investigate certain aspects of the thought of both Carl Schmitt and Walter Benjamin. Then I conclude by invoking the thought of Claude Lefort who, while practicing political philosophy, is sensitive to the role of theological concepts in the constitution of the political. For the thinkers associated with political theology, this disjunctive opposition between political theology and political philosophy comes to be blurred. It is possible that while practicing political philosophy, in their own self-representation, they are, in fact, in the grips of political theology, notwithstanding even a militant atheism. My claim is that beneath the surface of a secular theory, a theological problematic continues to operate. This claim is stronger than the claim that there are structural similarities between the two; rather it is that unbeknownst to themselves these secular theorists are pursuing a theological enterprise by 'other means.'"

Ruth Marshall (University of Toronto), "The Sovereignty of Miracles: Pentecostal Political Theology in Nigeria" (pp. 197-223).

Excerpt: "This paper will examine aspects of Pentecostalism's global 'revolutionary' project as they are being played out in the post-colonial world today in an effort to clarify elements of a Nigerian Born-Again political theology beyond the epithets and the long-standing antimonies and categories of analysis that have marked our understanding of the relationship between the religious and the political."

Nicolas Guilhot (CNRS, France, and New York University), "American Katechon: When Political Theology Became International Relations Theory" (pp. 224-53).

Excerpt: "While nobody would deny that international relations theory is a secular social science, especially in its 'realist' guise, it is interesting to note that a number of commentators and historians of the discipline often turn to religious metaphors in order to characterize some of its core features or talk about its main thinkers. Such eschatological or theological references run indeed throughout the literature, like a faint but always present watermark. [...] These references are too pervasive, too ubiquitous to be treated as mere coincidences. They point at a theological substratum that once provided an explicit background against which a number of central concepts of IR theory resonated, when the discussion of international affairs still involved not only scholars but also public intellectuals, diplomats, historians, political theorists and, last but not least, theologians, many of whom considered themselves 'Christian realists.' Obviously, the figure of Reinhold Niebuhr loomed large over these discussions. [...] But such considerations pervaded the early search for a 'theory' and were common to a group of individuals who actively discussed the shape of the future discipline. [...] Yet, as the discussion of international politics became an academic specialty enclosed in political science departments, this background was progressively bracketed out."

Carlo Invernizzi Accetti (Columbia University), "Can Democracy Emancipate Itself From Political Theology? Habermas and Lefort on the Permanence of the Theologico-Political" (pp. 254-70).

Excerpt: "In the following paper, I address the relation between political theology and the modern democratic form. To do so, I compare the writings of two authors who have more solid democratic credentials than Carl Schmitt: Jürgen Habermas and Claude Lefort. I argue that both of these authors attempt to put forward a conception of modern democracy that emancipates itself from the dimension of political theology, but that they achieve this goal to different extents. Habermas develops a conception of democracy articulated around the notion of 'communicative rationality' which ultimately ends up reintroducing an element of political theology through the very means that were sought to overcome it. Lefort, on the other hand, delineates a conception of democracy articulated around the notion of an 'empty place of power' which proves more sophisticated in extricating itself from the dimension of political theology because it recognizes the persistence of an irreducible locus of transcendence within the structure of the political itself, but construes it in such a way as to pervert its theologico-political character. From a political point of view, this contrast is instructive because it gives an indication as to what strategies might be more effective for advancing a secularist response to the recent resurgence of attempts to colonize the political with the theological."

Ada S. Jaarsma (Sonoma State University), "Habermas' Kierkegaard and the Nature of the Secular" (pp. 271-92).

Excerpt: "In what follows, I describe Habermas' normative program for the successful and mutually beneficial co-existence of the religious and the non-religious, looking especially at his reliance upon a particular reading of Kierkegaard. [...] As I argue below, the specific ways in which Habermas employs Kierkegaard's thought demonstrates what Habermas himself advocates for others: an appreciative respect for religious insights and simultaneous self-reflection on the limitations of both secular and philosophical thinking."

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