Political Myth

On the Use and Abuse of Biblical Themes

Political Myth

New Slant: Religion, Politics, Ontology

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Book Pages: 266 Illustrations: Published: March 2009

Author: Roland Boer

Politics > Political Theory, Religious Studies, Theory and Philosophy > Critical Theory

In this provocative and necessary work, Roland Boer, a leading biblical scholar and cultural theorist, develops a political myth for the Left: a powerful narrative to be harnessed in support of progressive policy. Boer focuses on foundational stories in the Hexateuch, the first six books of the Bible, from Genesis through Joshua. He contends that the “primal story” that runs from Creation, through the Exodus, and to the Promised Land is a complex political myth, one that has been appropriated recently by the Right to advance reactionary political agendas. To reclaim it in support of progressive political ends, Boer maintains, it is necessary to understand the dynamics of political myth.

Boer elaborates a theory of political myth in dialogue with Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno, Alain Badiou, Jacques Lacan, and Slavoj Žižek. Through close readings of well-known biblical stories he then scrutinizes the nature of political myth in light of feminism, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. Turning to contemporary politics, he examines the statements of prominent American and Australian politicians to show how the stories of Creation, conquest, Paradise, and the Promised Land have been distorted into a fantasy of Israel as a perpetual state in the making and a land in need of protection. Boer explains how this fantasy of Israel shapes U.S. and Australian foreign and domestic policies, and he highlights the links between it and the fantasy of unfettered global capitalism. Contending that political myths have repressed dimensions which if exposed undermine the myths’ authority, Boer urges the Left to expose the weakness in the Right’s mythos. He suggests that the Left make clear what the world would look like were the dream of unconstrained capitalism to be realized.


Political Myth provides the missing link between biblical studies and political theory. . . . This book certainly gives readers more tools in the context of the secular and religious Left for thinking about biblical studies and political theory than previous works on political myth.” — Hongyan Zhang, Discourse & Society

“An eclectic work of biblical hermeneutics and political theology, Boer’s readings will undoubtedly be questioned by many but helpfully provoke conversation about the nature of political myth and the justifications for theologically informed political acts.”
— Myles Werntz, Religious Studies Review

“As with his other works B. provides a coherent mix of biblical reading, modern theory and realpolitik.” — M. E. Mills, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament

“Boer is at his best when he is hard at work showing the repression or contradictions inherent in particular myths (whether biblical, Australian, American, or capitalist). I had several ‘wow!’ moments as I was reading, particularly in the chapters on Australian and American discourses on Israel and on Milton Friedman. Boer has a gift for drawing the reader’s attention to
absurdity and making it seem obvious (how could we have missed it?!).” — Craig Martin, Bible and Critical Theory

“Boer, who has created a fresh and refreshing form of Marxist criticism of biblical texts, here offers a first synthesis of his biblical interpretation. . . . In Boer, critical biblical scholarship has found a new and intelligent voice. His notion that Genesis to Joshua is a many-faceted work of political mythology is convincing and deserves further elaboration.” — International Review of Biblical Studies

“This book is a masterful discussion of political myth and a sophisticated reading of Genesis-Joshua as a political myth and the use of the logic of this myth in capitalist nations in general and Australia and the USA in particular. . . . Boer’s message needs to be heard. His strategy needs attention. His analysis of the Hexateuch needs to be studied. I highly recommend this book.” — Uriah Y. Kim, Reviews in Religion and Theology

“Focusing on the Genesis–Joshua narrative as a foundational political myth, Roland Boer illuminates the incorporation of that myth into representations of Israel, the foreign policies of the United States and Australia, and their relations to Israel. Drawing on his expertise in biblical studies and critical theory, he deconstructs contemporary geopolitical discourse and argues for a new political myth of and for the Left.” — Fernando F. Segovia, author of Decolonizing Biblical Studies: A View from the Margins

“How might the Left respond to the capitalist version of the biblical myth of the Land of unlimited plenty? Roland Boer demonstrates how a serious look at the Bible is unavoidable today when religion and myth have returned as topics of serious debate. Boer’s book provides the missing link between biblical studies and political theory.” — Jorunn Økland, Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Roland Boer is a Research Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His many books include Rescuing the Bible, Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology, Marxist Criticism of the Bible, Last Stop before Antarctica: The Bible and Postcolonialism in Australia, and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: The Bible and Popular Culture. He is the founding editor of the journal The Bible and Critical Theory.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Introduction 1

1. Toward a Theory of Political Myth 9

2. Women First? On the Legacy of "Primitive Communism" 36

3. The Fantasy of Myth 62

4. The Sacred Economy 89

5. Foreign Policy and the Fantasy of Israel in Australia 116

6. Christianity, Capitalism, and the Fantasy of Israel in the United States 144

7. Mythmaking for the Left 168

Conclusion 189

Appendix 193

Notes 213

Bibliography 227

Indexes 245
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4369-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4335-6
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