Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought

Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought

Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought

Two: The Machine of Political Theology and the Place of Thought

Synopsis

The debate on "political theology" that ran throughout the twentieth century has reached its end, but the ultimate meaning of the notion continues to evade us. Despite all the attempts to resolve the issue, we still speak its language--we remain in its horizon.
The reason for this, says Roberto Esposito, lies in the fact that political theology is neither a concept nor an event; rather, it is the pivot around which the machine of Western civilization has revolved for more than 2,000 years. At its heart stands the juncture between universalism and exclusion, unity and separation: the tendency of the Two to make itself into One by subordinating one part to the domination of the other. All the philosophical and political categories that we use, starting with the Roman and Christian notion of "the person," continue to reproduce this exclusionary dispositif.
To take our departure from political theology, then--the task of contemporary philosophy--we must radically revise our conceptual lexicon. Only when thought has been returned to its rightful "place"--connected to the human species as a whole rather than to individuals--will we be able to escape from the machine that has imprisoned our lives for far too long.long.

Excerpt

If there is one concept that remained impermeable to critical analysis during a discussion that lasted for the entire twentieth century, it is “political theology.” the reasons for this resistance—historical, philosophical, and semantic—are many. a stable, unambiguous definition was made impossible by the diversity of contexts, on the one hand, and by the variety of meanings given to the terms “politics” and “theology,” on the other. But on top of this thematic and lexical difficulty there lies another, more essential obstacle that on closer examination is the origin and cause of the first: namely, our inherent relation to the phenomenon that we seek to interpret. the basic obstacle to fathoming the ground of political theology, fundamentally, is the fact that we find ourselves already on it. This is why it has proven to be so intractable—not because its entrance is bolted, but because back in the mists of time we crossed over its threshold, before the door slammed shut behind us, barring our exit. This is why it is impossible for us to take the sort of distance required for an analytical and critical examination. Just as when we are inside an environment to the point of being confused with its elements or when we look at an object from too close up, it is impossible to make out its contours. To do so—to grasp the overall meaning of political theology—we need to look at it from the outside, expressing ourselves in a different language from its own. But this is exactly what its excessive proximity stops us from doing, by crushing us up against its interior walls. the problem is that for at least two thousand years we have spoken using a vocabulary that is inherently political-theological. We therefore have neither mental schemas nor linguistic models that are free from its syntax. All the categories that have been employed on various occasions . . .

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