Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World

Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World

Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World

Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World

Synopsis

What has happened to religion in its present manifestations? In recent years, Enlightenment secularization, as it appeared in the global spread of political structures that relegate the sacred to a private sphere, seems suddenly to have foundered. Unexpectedly, it has discovered its own parochialism--has discovered, indeed, that secularization may never have taken place at all. With the "return of the religious," in all aspects of contemporary social, political, and religious life, the question of political theology--of the relation between "political" and "religious" domains--takes on new meaning and new urgency. In this groundbreaking book, distinguished scholars from many disciplines--philosophy, political theory, anthropology, classics, and religious studies--seek to take the full measure of this question in today's world. This book begins with the place of the gods in the Greek polis, then moves through Augustine's two cities and early modern religious debates, to classic statements about political theology by such thinkers as Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt. Essays also consider the centrality of tolerance to liberal democracy, the recent French controversy over wearing the Muslim headscarf, and "Bush's God talk." The volume includes a historic discussion between Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, concerningthe prepolitical moral foundations of a republic, and it concludes with explorations of new, more open ways of conceptualizing society.

Excerpt

The age of globalization, as we seem destined to regard it, confronts us with more ironies than sources of clarity. The apparent triumph of Enlightenment secularization, manifest in the global spread of political and economic structures that pretended to relegate the sacred to a strictly circumscribed private sphere, seems to have foundered on an unexpected realization of its own parochialism and a belated acknowledgment of the continuing presence and force of "public religions" (the term is José Casanova's).

As Nobel laureate for economics Joseph Stiglitz notes, "A particular view of the role of government and markets has come to prevail—a view which is not universally accepted within the developed countries, but which is being forced upon the developing countries and the economies in transition." Even in the Western world, the prevailing model for the organization of political and economic life, representative or parliamentary democracy, and the capitalist enterprise have come under increasing pressure from a variety of social and cultural movements whose religious origins and overtones are more and more difficult to ignore. Both the model of limited governance in political liberalism, with its corollary conception of civil society (implying religious freedom and tolerance), and the unstoppable engine of globalization find their match in spreading expressions of discontentment and resistance, which are often articulated in theologico-political terms. But does this make them necessarily "religious"? Or were the pillars of sovereign power not from the outset theologico-political, if not mythico-religious, at core, just as the engines that continue to drive the forces and interests of economic exchange, their real and virtual monetary flows, have, as Max Weber was the first to realize, affinities with mental dispositions fostered by certain conceptions of faith and belief? Should we (still or again) study current tendencies in society and politics with reference to the . . .

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