19 June 2010

Political theology articles, fourth installment

A fourth installment of recent articles on political theology:

Richard Shorten (University of Birmingham), "Political Theology, Political Religion and Secularisation", Political Studies Review, 8 (2), May 2010: pp. 180-91.

Excerpt: "Recent work on the connection between religion and politics has often aligned itself with one of two intellectual traditions. On the one hand there is an expanding body of thought on the problem of the 'theological-political'. On the other, various discourses of 'political religion' amount to a different angle of approach to similar issues. The exact relation between the two orientations has seldom been spelled out. Nevertheless, it is intriguing for a number of reasons. The disjunction between the two is, in the foremost sense, disciplinary in character. The remit of the first is typically that of political philosophy, while the second body of work is largely historiographical. More prosaically, the two traditions are also readily identifiable with the 'big names' with whom they are invariably associated; Leo Strauss might just as well be a shorthand for political theology, and Eric Voegelin (albeit less well known) occupies a similar place in the tradition of political religion theory. To begin to establish that relation is therefore the primary intention of this short review article. The appearance, over the past few years, of a substantial set of monographs would seem an appropriate occasion on which to do so."

Cosmin Sebastian Cercel (University of Bucharest), "European Legal Integration as Phantasmagoria: On Jus Commune and Political Theology", Journal of Contemporary European Studies, 18 (2), June 2010: pp. 241-52.

Abstract: "This paper tries to explore the place of phantasmatic structures in the production of discourses on the past and the instrumentalization of historiography in the framework of the construction of a European identity. During the last decades, in strong connection with European institutional framing, a heterogeneous discourse tries to impose by means of symbolic violence and authoritative arguments its own truth about Europe's 'Common Legal Past' in order to legitimize European politics in the field of legal integration. In doing so, it conjures both a shared legal tradition and a paradigm for understanding the status of the legal, the jus commune, a kind of Roman Law, a patchwork of Canon Law and scholar interpretation techniques, that emerged in the twelfth century and might have been at work throughout Europe as late as the beginning of nineteenth century. What this discourse also brings to the fore is the idea of a common legal culture that has been largely informed by the religious milieu where most of modern legal concepts have been forged. From this point of view this arguments reveal themselves as variations on Carl Schmitt's problematic stand of a political theology. This paper tries to unravel the internal tensions that undermine the discourse and questions its relation to historical truth and the phantasmatic dimension of meaning construction in historical enterprise. On the other hand, it tries to give an account by means of genealogy of the uncanny relation between this contemporary emergence of the jus commune and other legal ontologies of European modernity that presuppose a strong relation between the legal and the religious. In respect to this, I try to sketch the image of the contemporary discourse on the European 'Common Legal Past' as a discursive strategy that hasn't dealt with its own idiosyncrasies and proffers a doubtful legal ontology with dubious intellectual links that places it in an history of exclusionist and essentialist conservative thought."

Pamela Slotte (University of Helsinki), "Political Theology within International Law and Protestant Theology: Some Comparative Remarks", Studia Theologica: Nordic Journal of Theology, 64 (1), June 2010: pp. 22-58.

Abstract: "An upsurge of efforts to understand history, society and law through their Christian roots has been witnessed in recent years. Some of these attempts are explicitly referred to as political theology, and some are not. However, they do share the feature of seeking to explicate social phenomena by tracing their theological and political roots. This article reflects on this current trend. The primary focus is international legal discourse. The article asks questions about the theological in political theology found in this discourse by presenting thoughts about political theology as found in writings of the Protestant feminist theologian Dorothee Sölle."

Vendulka Kubálková (University of Miami), "A 'Turn to Religion' in IR?", Perspectives: Review of International Affairs, 17 (2), 2009: pp. 13-42.

Abstract: "The Anglo-American discipline of International Relations defends its main principles and resists with an almost religious fervor any change to them, although the explanation of world affairs has been eluding it since its inception. The article attempts to draw up possibly the first historiography of the IR scholarship about religion in world affairs since the 90s, showing the heightened interest in the subject from most other social sciences and humanities. The article proposes the use of the term 'International Political Theology' to bridge the multiple literatures as well as to underscore the theological commitment of the IR discipline to its basic creeds and dogmas."

Mika Luoma-aho (University of Lapland), "International Relations and the Secularisation of Theological Concepts: A Symbolic Reading", Perspectives: Review of International Affairs, 17 (2), 2009: pp. 71-92.

Abstract: "This article takes seriously Carl Schmitt's argument that secular political concepts share structural identity with certain concepts in Christian theology and exposes its implications for contemporary International Relations. The key for understanding Schmitt's argument is in its orporeal [sic] social imaginary. What connects the theological structures of Christianity with those of the contemporary social order is the corpus mysticum: the image of an embodied polis. The origin of the image is in scripture and it has been a subject of much theological speculation in the Christian tradition. The same image has a secular incarnation in the institution of the state, wchich [sic] is, of course, an omnipresent element in contemporary IR as well as in the everyday discourse of international relations. The article concludes with a thought on the role of political theology in the study of IR."

John P. McCormick (University of Chicago), "From Roman Catholicism to Mechanized Oppression: On Political-Theological Disjunctures in Schmitt's Weimar Thought", Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 13 (2-3), June 2010: pp. 391-8.

Abstract: "This essay uses Carl Schmitt's often overlooked Roman Catholicism and political form to highlight generally neglected changes in Schmitt's thinking as it develops from the early to the late 1920s and then to the mid-1930s. In particular, the essay notes significant alterations in Schmitt's attitudes to the Roman Catholic Church, the concept of 'humanity', liberalism, the Jews and Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan state."

Samuel J. Kuruvilla (University of Exeter), "Theologies of Liberation in Latin America and Palestine-Israel in Comparative Perspective: Contextual Differences and Practical Similarities", Holy Land Studies, 9 (1), May 2010: pp. 51-69.

Abstract: "This article concerns the development of a theology of Christian liberation and contextual polity from its early origins in Latin America to one of its present manifestations as part of the Palestinian people's struggle for justice and freedom from the state of Israel. This article will be primarily dedicated to a historical and political analysis of the theological context, which includes three different strands. First, there was the development of theologies of liberation, as they are made manifest in Latin America and elsewhere. Next, there was the theology of other Palestinian Christians, and particularly that of the Al-Liqa group that contributed to the development of a contextual Palestinian theology of liberation within the 'occupied' context that is Palestine today. And finally there was the case of Palestinian Protestant Christian theologians such as the Rev. Dr Naim Ateek and the Rev. Dr Mitri Raheb who have raised definitional issues regarding liberation theology and Palestinian contextual Christianity."

Yaniv Belhassen (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev), "Fundamentalist Christian Pilgrimages as a Political and Cultural Force", Journal of Heritage Tourism, 4 (2), May 2009: pp. 131-44.

Abstract: "Based on fieldwork on a Midwestern American grassroots organization that conducts evangelical tours to Israel, this paper seeks to enrich analysis of the pilgrimage experience by suggesting a more contextualized approach to its study. To illustrate the implementation of the contextualized perspective, three thematic examples from the fieldwork are presented: men's emotional expression; religious deeds and their political meanings; and a case on the theo-political symbolism embedded in evangelical pilgrimage itineraries. It is argued that understanding not only the theological but also the historical, socio-cultural and political contexts in which evangelical tours operate can illuminate the way individual pilgrims construe meaning during their travel experiences. The paper concludes by suggesting that each of the examined examples illustrates the role of the pilgrimage as a cohesive force in the evangelical sub-culture."

Frederick Guyette (Erskine College and Theological Seminary), "Jonathan Edwards, The Ethics of Virtue and Public Theology", International Journal of Public Theology, 4 (2), 2010: pp. 158-74.

Abstract: "In The Nature of True Virtue, Jonathan Edwards does not deny that common morality is important; benevolence, beauty, conscience, justice, love for family and country are all threads in the fabric of a common morality. Without love for God as their chief end, however, the 'virtues' of common morality do not rise to the level of true virtue. This incommensurability can be problematic for Christian ethics in the public square. Edwards understood his project within the horizon of a commonwealth founded on Christian faith, but modern liberal democracies envision a different relationship between religious discourse and public life. In these contexts, so different from Edwards' setting, pluralism and tolerance are among the keys to a peaceful pursuit of the common good. With these differences in view, then, I explore what contribution Edwards' work on virtue might make to the practice of public theology in the areas of environmental ethics, bioethics and immigration policy."

Kirsteen Kim (Leeds Trinity University College), "Christianity's Role in the Modernization and Revitalization of Korean Society in the
Twentieth-Century", International Journal of Public Theology, 4 (2), 2010: pp. 212-36.

Abstract: "The development of South Korea and its growth to become the world's eleventh largest economy has been accompanied by the introduction of Christianity and its increase to become the major religious group, to which nearly thirty per cent of the population are affiliated. This article probes the connection between these two spectacular examples of development; economic and religious. By highlighting moments or episodes of Christian contribution to aspects of development in Korean history and linking these to relevant aspects of Korean Christian theology, there is shown to be a constructive, although not always intentional, link between Korean Christianity and national development. The nature of the Christian contribution is seen not primarily in terms of the work ethic it engenders (as argued by Max Weber in the case of European capitalism) but mainly in the realm of aspirations (visions, hope) of a new society and motivation (inspiration, empowerment) to put them into effect. In other words, it was the public theology of Christianity that played a highly significant role in the modernization and revitalization of Korean society in the twentieth century."

Max L. Stackhouse (Princeton Theological Seminary), "Public Theology and Democracy's Future", The Review of Faith & International Affairs, 7 (2), summer 2009: pp. 49-54.

Abstract: "Enduring civilizations have had a religious, moral architecture to guide leaders and evoke sacrificial commitments. The Judeo-Christian tradition offers two biblicalthemes [sic] that undergird the 'principled pluralism' that presses society toward democracy: the recognition of sin and the possibility of covenant. A serious public theology will engage the great world religions to find comparable concepts and prospects for an emerging global civil society. A viable democracy depends on a division of powers not only within the government, but among the institutions outside state control in a viable civil society. And civil society is strongest where multiple religious institutions are well developed."

Lisa O'Connell (University of Queensland), "The Theo-political Origins of the English Marriage Plot", Novel: A Forum on Fiction, 43 (1), spring 2010: pp. 31-7.

Abstract: "My paper re-historicizes the eighteenth-century marriage plot by shifting attention away from both the history of literary genres and the modes of social history that have generally informed accounts of the rise of the novel. Drawing instead on recent historiography of the period's religious-political currents, I argue that the novel's marriage plot emerged as both a cultural agent of the Erastian state and an expression of a highly labile, conservative, patriot opposition. It did so, therefore, as an English marriage plot which placed Anglican ritual and relations between vicars and squires at the heart of an imagined English nation. By returning a key tradition of the novel to its theo-political origins, and by offering an account of how marriage itself gained and retained intense topicality across the long eighteenth century in struggles between church and state, I show how the novel's new marriage plot worked to place prose fiction at the center of the literary field and, by that move, radically to augment literature's social resonance."

Leora Batnitzky (Princeton), "Leo Strauss and the Theologico-Political Predicament", in "The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss", ed. Steven B. Smith (Cambridge University Press, May 2009): pp. 41-62.


Excerpt: "This essay considers what Strauss meant by 'theologico-political predicament,' suggesting that there are at least two senses in which he employs the term, the first diagnostic, the second reconstructive. In its diagnostic sense, 'theologico-political predicament' refers to the ultimate results of the early modern attempt to separate theology from politics. However, Strauss in no way favors a return to theocracy or, like his contemporary Carl Schmitt, a return toward political theology. Strauss attempts to recover classical political philosophy, not to return to the political structures of the past, but to reconsider ways in which premodern thinkers thought it necessary to grapple and live with the tensions, if not contradictions, that by definition arise from human society. It is in this sense that Strauss's use of the theologico-political problem is reconstructive. [...] The conclusion considers the contemporary implications of Strauss's analyses."

Adam Kotsko (Kalamazoo College), "Dismantling the Theo-Political Machine: On Agamben's Messianic Nihilism", in "After the Postsecular and the Postmodern", eds. Anthony Paul Smith and Daniel Whistler (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, May 2010): pp. 209-224.


Excerpt: "In both cases [Jacques Derrida and Slavoj Žižek's], the impetus behind the turn to religion comes in large parts from within their own intellectual projects [...] but the end goal of their engagement with theology remains the same: to find a way out of religion, recognizing that 'the only way out is through.' This essay is in part an attempt to demonstrate that a similar pattern is at work in the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben. [...] In retrospect, [...] one can see that Agamben had all along been shifting fluently between the religious and the political, a procedure he rarely thematises because the example of Walter Benjamin, perhaps his most significant intellectual influence, makes it seem like the obvious route to take. A significant portion of this essay will be taken up with a rereading of the Homo Sacer project with special attention to this continual slippage between the religious and the political. Yet for my purposes, Agamben's account of the theologico-political structure of the West is less important than the means he proposes for escaping or suspending that structure, a means that I will characterize as 'messianic nihilism.' Once I have established the basic outlines of Agamben's diagnosis of what ails Western culture and his proposed way out, I will turn from the exegetical to the constructive task, considering Agamben as one of the most fruitful interlocutors among the representatives of the 'theological turn' for interrogating the relationship between theology and philosophy."

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