Political Theology: The Continental Shift (published by Equinox)

The Equinox Journal--Political Theology

The Equinox Journal--Political Theology

I am excited about editing a special issue for the Equinox journal, Political Theology (11.1) called, Political Theology: The Continental Shift. 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.  In stark contrast  to Schmitt’s submission to the violent assumption that “the sovereign” presupposes, the essays in this issue asks us to re-think the very nature of political theology not in the guise of state security vis-a-vis its threat/enemy dualism (a stance that has become famous by the recent Bush Administration), but rather through the radical notion of love, of belonging (prior to autonomy), of risk! 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.

In this issue we have contributions from some of the most brilliant philosophers, theologians, and theorist alive today.

Toni Negri

Toni Negri

Toni Negri contributes a piece he wrote in prison in 1999 on Jacob Taubes’s view of Political Theology. Thanks to Bruno Bosteels for translating this important article.

The Article is entitled: “The Eclipse of Eschatology: Conversing with Taubes’s Messianism and the Common Body” and adds to the already very active debate between Taubes and Schmitt on the meaning of St. Paul and Political Theology

Professor Rubenstein

Professor Rubenstein

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, considered by some to be the best theorist on religion in her generation, challenges the very logic of Christianity and how it relates to the political in our time. Her essay is entitled, “Capital Shares: The Way Back into the With of Christianity.”

Clayton Crockett, whose work refuses to link theology to any single tradition or creed, and Catherine Malabou, Jacques Derrida’s brilliant student, team up to discuss the need to re-think the nature of theology and its future in order to circumvent the deadlocks of capitalist ideologies (and its supplement fundamentalism). Their article entitled, “Plasticity and the Future of Philosophy and Theology” extends Crockett and Malabou’s thinking beyond Christian orthodox versions of theology and politics.

Dan Bell, who has established himself as one of the most brilliant theologians working in the Americas today writes an essay entitled “The Fragile Brilliance of Glass: Empire, Multitude, and the Coming Community” which extends his radical critique of the terror of capitalism. Bell goes head-to-head with Hardt, Negri, and Agamben’s interrogation of political sovereignty in its postmodern form. He does this by highlighting the meritorious aspects of such a critique but questions the positive side. Bell adroitly argues that these thinker’s critique is finally insufficient to fund a positive democratic vision and practice. images-1Bell’s position is the most decisive here as he argues that only a politic premised on transcendence proffers not simply a negative critique but also a positive vision for the future. He argues for this by considering the democratic possibilities of an Augustinian political ecclesiology. In this way, we finally get an essay that actually fleshes out John Milbank’s last chapter in the ground breaking book, Theology and Social Theory.

Ken Reinhard--Professor at UCLA

Ken Reinhard--Professor at UCLA

Ken Reinhard, one of the leading theorists on the intersection of culture and psychoanalysis, contributes an article called “There is Something of One (God): Lacan and Political Theology” which shows without a doubt why Lacan (and psychoanalysis) is a leading actor in the new political theology debate.

Chad Pecknold, a leading Catholic theologian contributes an essay entitled “Migrations of the Host: Fugitive Democracy and the Corpus Mysticum” which brings the brilliance of Sheldon Wolin into the heart of the debate. “The essay argues that the political argument concerning the decoupling of democracy and liberalism that Sheldon Wolin makes in both editions of Politics and Vision (1960 and 2004) significantly depends on the historical argument Henri Cardinal de Lubac made in his 1944 book Corpus Mysticum: Eucharist and the Church in the Middle Ages.”

In other words, as Pecknold makes clear, it is de Lubac’s breathtaking understanding of the Eucharist that can ultimately ground a politics that resists the fake truth of liberalism.

Zizek and Milbank Debate

Zizek and Milbank Debate

And if that were not enough, we have another round of the Zizek/Milbank debate. In two never before published pieces, this issue will print the most intense moments of the Zizek/Milbank debate, which I edited in The Monstrosity of Christ for The MIT Press released earlier this year. Here’s an update of a recent public debate in London. Thanks to mariborchan for the photos!

Milbank picks up the debate where it left off… He continues the debate with the title:

“Without Heaven there is only Hell on Earth: 15 verdicts on Zizek’s response”

and Zizek’s responds with: “An Atheist Wager.”

Here is a foretaste: (please do not distribute or reproduce the following):


2. Moreover, Zizek also confirms my thesis that without a realist belief in a transcendent God and heaven, the ontological ground for hope for a transformed human future is removed. This is shown in the fact that the consequence of removing the ‘naively’ dramatic character of Orthodox Christianity – whereby one really proceeds from cross to resurrection, from sorrow to joy, from tragedy to resolution, from life to death – is that the significance of human historicity is abolished also. Hence Zizek in his own way proclaims an Hegelian ‘end of history’ by saying that the hell of human history cannot be transformed, but can nevertheless be seen from an altogether different and ‘rosier’ perspective which does not remove, entirely overlaps with and yet does not touch its crucified aspect.


The only appropriate way for me to conclude the exchange is to add a footnote on Pascal’s notion of wager, confronting (Milbank’s) theist wager and (my) atheist wager. The first thing that strikes the eye is that Pascal rejects all attempts to demonstrate the existence of God: he concedes that “we do not know if He is,” so he seeks to provide prudential reasons for believing in God: we should wager that God exists because it is the best bet:

In the Book Review section we will have reviews of The Monstrosity of Christ, by the author of Zizek and Theology Adam Kotsko, and Marcus Pound’s book Zizek: A (Very) Critical Introduction is reviewed by Justin Klassen. A review of William Connolly’s book Capitalism and Christianity: American Style is written by Dan Barber (with a response by Connolly) and a roundtable discussion by Alex Andrews, Sarah Azaransky, and Floyd Dunphy on Charles Taylor’s book A Secular Age round out this section.

Moses and Paul, Vezelay

Moses and Paul, Vezelay

7 thoughts on “Political Theology: The Continental Shift (published by Equinox)

  1. Pingback: Political Theology « flying.farther

  2. “only a politic premised on transcendence proffers not simply a negative critique but also a positive vision for the future.”

    Words that should be banned in theology: “only”, particularly when related to political practice. The priority of any ontology to political practice is the high of absurdity and I am afraid speaks to all manner of hierarchical and academic prejudices whereby political action has to be led by an elite of metaphysicians first getting the ideas right.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s