Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
The closed circle: Marxism, Christianity
and the 'End of History'

This book begins with the image of a closed circle, that is with the idea that the separated strands of Western, and increasingly world history, have converged and that a sense of closure is widespread. The phenomena of globalisation and environmental degradation now serve to compound this impression; yet, simultaneously, as the drive towards uniformity takes place so differences, economic, social and cultural, increase and intensify, and these phenomena are often exacerbated by what Theodor Hanf has depicted as the 'sacred markers' that provide focal points for the assertion of identity in the face of homogenisation.1 The decade from 1989 to 1999 is marked by a progressive realisation that the apparent optimism of the earliest years of the decade has been undercut by events, of which the wars in the former Yugoslavia have proved to be but one of the bestpublicised instances of political and societal disfunctionality. The tension between the rather facile hopes of ideologues who saw a New World Order freeing itself from the sterile polarities of the Cold War and the onset of renewed forms of chaos and disintegration, all overshadowed by an ever more apparent global environmental degradation amounting to an 'ecological eschaton',2 serves as a natural point of departure for these reflections on the changing configuration of the relationships between religion, theology and the human sciences.

The Japanese-American political theorist Francis Fukuyama represented the transition marked by the events of 1989–90 as the inauguration of the 'End of History', and the interrogation of this assertion serves as a point of departure for a long journey into the confused and changing cultural field that is the central concern of this book. The 'closed circle'

____________________
1
See Theodor Hanf, 'The Sacred Marker: Religion, Communalism and Nationalism', Social Compass, 41 /1 (1994), 9–20.
2
This was a term that I coined in 1989 when preparing the conference Religion and the Resurgence of Capitalism, which took place at Lancaster University in 1990. This notion has gained salience during the intervening years and is directly responded to in part 3 below.

-15-

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