27 September 2010

Political theology articles, fifth installment

A fifth installment of recent articles on political theology:

Christopher Craig Brittain (University of Aberdeen), "Political Theology at a Standstill: Adorno and Agamben on the Messianic", Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology, 102 (1), August 2010: pp. 39-56.

Abstract: "This essay explores the use of the concept of the messianic by Giorgio Agamben and Theodor Adorno. Throughout his work, Agamben consistently presents his reading of the messianic as an alternative to what he considers to be the 'pessimistic' negative dialectics of Adorno, which he argues 'is an absolutely non-messianic form of thought'. For Agamben, the messianic brings dialectics to a 'standstill'. This essay analyzes this deployment of the 'messianic' in his thought, and contrasts it with the perspective of Adorno. Agamben's interpretation of Walter Benjamin is challenged with reference to a debate between Adorno and Benjamin over theology, dialectics, and politics."

Clare Monagle (Monash University), "A Sovereign Act of Negation: Schmitt's Political Theology and its Ideal Medievalism", Culture, Theory and Critique, 51 (2), July 2010: pp. 115-27.

Abstract: "This article argues that Carl Schmitt's political theology is premised on an idealised and totalising vision of the Middle Ages. That is, he casts modern political concepts as debased and corrupt in comparison to the proper politics of the Medieval Church, as he sees it. Drawing on a historically contextualised reading of the Fourth Lateran Council, which took place in 1215, the article's author argues that Schmitt's medieval comparison is much more complicated than he suggests. Schmitt's historical vision is, thus, a wilful projection of unity onto a diverse and distant past."

Jürgen Fohrmann (University of Bonn) and Dimitris Vardoulakis (University of Western Sydney), "Enmity and Culture: The Rhetoric of Political Theology and the Exception in Carl Schmitt", Culture, Theory and Critique, 51 (2), July 2010: pp. 129-44.

Abstract: "This article compares Carl Schmitt's and Walter Benjamin's discussion of the figure of Hamlet. This comparison evaluates Schmitt's response in Hamlet or Hecuba to Benjamin's discussion of the 'exception' in Origins of the German Tragic Drama. 'Deciding upon the exception' is a defining characteristic of sovereignty, so that the comparison between Schmitt and Benjamin is also an evaluation of their respective theories of sovereignty. It will appear that the notion of the aesthetic is crucial in understanding this constellation of ideas."

Dimitris Vardoulakis (University of Western Sydney), "The Ends of Stasis: Spinoza as Reader of Agamben", Culture, Theory and Critique, 51 (2), July 2010: pp. 145-56.

Abstract: "Agamben contends that 'There is ... no such thing as a stasiology, a theory of stasis or civil war' in the western understanding of sovereignty. His own vision of a politics beyond biopolitics explicitly culminates in the end of stasis. How can we understand Agamben's political theology by investigating his use of stasis? Stasis is particularly suited to an inquiry into political theology. It is linked to politics, since its primary meaning is political change, revolution, or civil war, as well as to the theological, since it denotes immobility or immutability, which were attributes of God. Stasis, then, presents the simultaneous presence and absence that exemplifies the unassimilable relation of the sacred and the secular in political theology. The question is: Does Agamben remain true to this unassimilable relation? Or does he betray it the moment he calls for an end to biopolitics? Agamben's reading of Spinoza will provide useful clues in answering these questions."

Ben Quash (King's College London), "Radical Orthodoxy's Critique of Niebuhr", in "Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics: God and Power", eds. Richard Harries and Stephen Platten (Oxford University Press, March 2010): pp. 58-71.


Abstract: "Reinhold Niebuhr's 'Christian realism' was in significant part a rejection of the pacifism and optimism of the Social Gospel movement in the United States. Even though Niebuhr had initially been sympathetic to the movement, he came to dismiss its belief that the realization of the kingdom of God, proclaimed by Jesus, could be expected in the foreseeable future. He thought the movement's great confidence in human progress was naiïve [sic], and that its belief in education's power to foster a law of love (and thus to eradicate the sin of selfishness from individuals and institutions) lacked a proper understanding of original sin. Recognizing the force of Niebuhr's criticisms of the Social Gospel movement, this chapter sets out to ask whether Niebuhr's thought is as effective a riposte to another and much more recent strand of thought in Christian ethics: the ecclesially centered ethics of Radical Orthodoxy. Measuring Radical Orthodoxy's thought against Niebuhr's is given added interest by the fact that Radical Orthodox thinkers themselves – and especially John Milbank – have explicitly and critically engaged Niebuhr, and have described what they see as the 'poverty' of his idea of Christian realism for contemporary ethics."

Stephen Platten (Anglican Bishop of Wakefield), "Niebuhr, Liturgy, and Public Theology", in "Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics: God and Power", eds. Richard Harries and Stephen Platten (Oxford University Press, March 2010): pp. 102-16.

Abstract: "This chapter argues that it is a mistake to understand liturgy as being enacted in a place of withdrawal from society. Liturgy is a public event with a relationship to public life. If this is understood it ought to be possible to have a much more integral relationship between the kind of political theology represented by Niebuhr and liturgy as performative and transformational for society as a whole."

Kevin Carnahan (Central Methodist University), "The Irony of American Evangelical Politics", in "Reinhold Niebuhr and Contemporary Politics: God and Power", eds. Richard Harries and Stephen Platten (Oxford University Press, March 2010): pp. 202-18.

Abstract: "American evangelical political theology is facing a crisis of self-identity. Many evangelicals have claimed that evangelical political theology has been taken captive by the Republican Party. In reaction, evangelical reformers have attempted to wrest their political theology from the grip of partisan political programs. God, they claim, is not a Republican or a Democrat. Despite agreement on this project, however, proposals in American evangelicalism have failed to provide a political theology that maintains a sense of evangelical public responsibility and a sense of God's transcendence over partisan political debates. This chapter argues that Niebuhrian Christian Realism offers a theological approach that could open new avenues for political thought which might carry evangelicals past their present conundrum."

Michael S. Hogue (Meadville Lombard Theological School), "After the Secular: Toward a Pragmatic Public Theology", Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 78 (2), June 2010: pp. 346-74.

Abstract: "In a time after the secular and of rapid religious change, of increasing interreligious contacts and globally scaled, viscerally local moral challenges, questions of public theology have become central for scholars of religion in many fields, as well as for explicitly normative theological projects. In response to this, this article offers the initial contours of a pragmatic public theology that engages global moral challenges amidst the conditions of pluralism and an ethos of religious transformation. I illustrate this pragmatic public theology as an inter-traditional public theological mode that is methodologically fallibilized, doxologically rather than apologetically focused, strategically engaged in medias res between traditions and global and local moral challenges, and normatively committed to the nurturance of differentiated moral solidarities with and on behalf of the most vulnerable."

Heinrich Bedford-Strohm (University of Bamberg, Germany), "Public Theology and the Economy in a Globalizing World", Dutch Reformed Theological Journal/Nederduitse Gereformeerde Teologiese Tydskrif, 51 (1-2), March/June 2010: pp. 15-23.

Excerpt: "This paper was read at the Theological Day of the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University[,] on 25 January 2010. Speaking on 'Public Theology and the economy in a globalizing world' in 30 minutes is a real challenge. The themes of Public Theology, of basic assumptions of economics and of what we mean by the word 'globalization' would be each one a lecture of its own. And yet the connection of the three is exactly what needs to be discussed. The challenge of a globalizing world which has destructive effects on the natural environments and which still tolerates the poverty caused [sic] death of thousands of human beings every day is clearly on the table. I will leave describing these challenges of globalizations more closely to others today and focus on the theological grounding. After a reflection on the relationship of theology and economics in the reformation traditions, I will describe the place of a public theological model of economic ethics in the context of several other models. I will explain what it entails by distinguishing four dimensions of ethical reflection and conclude with exploring the task of the church in a globalizing world."

Guillermo Hansen (Luther Seminary), "Contours for a Public Lutheran Theology in the Face of Empire", Dialog: A Journal of Theology, 49 (2), summer 2010: pp. 96-107.

Abstract: "Three themes structure Lutheranism's interpretation of the biblical narrative as it intersects with the present challenges of Empire: justification by faith as a declaration of inclusiveness; God's threefold-multidimensional action creating and sustaining democratic practices (two kingdoms); and the cross as the critical 'weapon' against the 'glory' of Empire. This implies placing our theology within the present cultural and religious debate in a way consistent with the methodology of the cross: a theology done from the bowels of Empire, revealing its true face behind its alleged 'benevolent' mask."

Paul Hedges (University of Winchester), "Is John Milbank's Radical Orthodoxy a Form of Liberal Theology? A Rhetorical Counter", The Heythrop Journal, 51 (5), September 2010: pp. 795-818.

Excerpt: "The title of this work is intended to be deliberately provocative. In one sense the answer is very clear: no. With an insistence upon unquestioning Chalcedon Orthodoxy, a turn to the resources of the past (especially the fathers and medieval theology) and an avowed rejection of Kant's metaphysics, Milbank's work is the utter antithesis of much liberal theology. I will seek to show that Milbank's theology has features that are often said to be characteristic of liberal theologies, however, and that it has not escaped the shackles of the modernist/liberal worldview it seeks to repudiate. Moreover, I will ask important questions about the increasingly pejorative tag of 'liberal'; many scholars observe that the use of 'conservative' as a blanket term is highly problematic, yet they still deploy 'liberal' in a monolithic sense."

Robert S. Taylor (University of California, Davis), "Kant's Political Religion: The Transparency of Perpetual Peace and the Highest Good", The Review of Politics, 72 (1), winter 2010: pp. 1-24.

Abstract: "Scholars have long debated the relationship between Kant's doctrine of right and his doctrine of virtue (including his moral religion or ethico-theology), which are the two branches of his moral philosophy. This article will examine the intimate connection in his practical philosophy between perpetual peace and the highest good, between political and ethico-religious communities, and between the types of transparency peculiar to each. It will show how domestic and international right provides a framework for the development of ethical communities, including a kingdom of ends and even the noumenal ethical community of an afterlife, and how the transparency and trust achieved in these communities are anticipated in rightful political society by publicity and the mutual confidence among citizens that it engenders. Finally, it will explore the implications of this synthesis of Kant's political and religious philosophies for contemporary Kantian political theories, especially those of Jürgen Habermas and John Rawls."

Stephan Rindlisbacher (University of Bern), "Radicalism as Political Religion? The Case of Vera Figner", Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions, 11 (1), March 2010: pp. 67-87.

Abstract: "Vera Figner was a leading member of the Russian terrorist group Narodnaia Volia [People's Will] in the late 1870s and early 1880s. In her biography one can trace what Eric Voegelin and Emilio Gentile called 'political religion'. They argue that such a political religion is a basic component of mass mobilisation and also plays an important role in the exerting of political violence in totalitarian states in the twentieth century. Vera Figner and her comrades shared a deep belief in the 'Russian people' as a sacralised secular entity. Because of their ascetic conduct of life within the group, they considered themselves as 'moral elite' (virtuosi), able to lead the 'people' to a better future. Within the 'political sect' of Narodnaia Volia the unconditional submission to the authority of the Executive Committee and the resultant political violence against the regime became means to the revolutionary end. Vera Figner continued uncompromisingly in her struggle against the tsarist regime, even after it became clear that there was obviously no chance of success. In her view she had either to prevail or perish for her 'faith'."

Peter Rohloff (Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston), "Liberation Theology and the Voice of the Indigenous Other in Guatemala", Canadian Geographer/Le Géographe canadien, 54 (3), fall 2010: pp. 375-7.

Abstract: "The legacy of the liberation theology in Guatemala is complex. Although it mobilized progressive Catholic forces at times, it has not overcome reactionary and conservative church elements. Most importantly, it has not proven entirely capable of rising above elitism, nor has it moved beyond paternalism toward Maya culture."

Jacob L. Wright (Emory University), "The Commemoration of Defeat and the Formation of a Nation in the Hebrew Bible", Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History, 29 (3), fall 2009: pp. 433-72.

Abstract: "This article argues that the emergence of a 'national' consciousness in Israel and Judah was originally fueled by many factors, such as a confined and remote core territory, a history of tribal allegiances, language, culture, law, cult, and ongoing military conflicts. But more important than these factors or any institution of statecraft was the anticipation of defeat and defeat itself. When life could not continue as usual, and the state armies had been conquered, one was forced to answer the question: Who are we? The biblical architects of Israel's memories responded to this question by (selectively) gathering fragments of their collective past and using this material to construct a narrative that depicts the origins of a people and the history leading up to the major catastrophe. Much of the historical narrative treats the period before the rise of the monarchy, and portrays Israel existing as a people long before it established a kingdom – or to use later European political terminology, it portrays Israel existing as a nation before it gained statehood. This 'national' consciousness represents the precondition for the writing of Israel's history and the maturation of its rich theological and political tradition. In demonstrating these points, the article critiques two trajectories of contemporary scholarship: one that follows Julius Wellhausen in viewing the community that emerged after the loss of statehood as a form of 'church,' and another that sees the great moments of state power as the primary context for the formation of the Hebrew Bible and the rich theological-political thought contained therein."

Hent de Vries (Johns Hopkins), "Fast Forward, or: The Theologico-Political Event in Quick Motion (Miracles, Media, and Multitudes in St. Augustine)", in "How the West Was Won: Essays on Literary Imagination, the Canon, and the Christian Middle Ages for Burcht Pranger", eds. Willemien Otten, Arjo Vanderjagt, and Hent de Vries (Brill, April 2010): pp. 255-80. Available online:


Excerpt: "While suspicious of the abundant expressions of popular religion such as magic and exorcisms, healings and relics, Augustine entertains a complex relationship with the domain of what, traditionally, is conceived as the supernatural. It is this complicated relationship that I wish to bring out in a few broad strokes, mindful of the complexity of the matter and mostly concerned with three or four striking traits of his conception, namely the miracle belief's publicness and publicity, on the one hand, and the miracle's presumed acceleration and fastforwarding of natural processes and, hence, special effect on us, on the other. These are two motifs and motivations that, to my knowledge, have not yet found the attention they deserve. Moreover, Augustine's argument also relies, thirdly, on a conception of multitude and catholicity – indeed, universality or globality – that is not without implications for the philosophical and theologico-political work that his writings continue to inspire and that, anachronistically speaking, they seem to have anticipated all along, not least in their nuanced dealing with and theorization of miracles, their strategic and pragmatic use and momentum, their political but also more generally persuasive and perlocutionary aspect."


  1. could you reference where the other four lists are?

  2. John, just click on the "article" label - either at the bottom of this post, or in the blog label list on the left. Cheers