Theology and the Political

The New Debate, sic v

Book Pages: 496 Illustrations: Published: June 2005

Cultural Studies, Politics > Political Theory, Religious Studies

The essays in Theology and the Political—written by some of the world’s foremost theologians, philosophers, and literary critics—analyze the ethics and consequences of human action. They explore the spiritual dimensions of ontology, considering the relationship between ontology and the political in light of the thought of figures ranging from Plato to Marx, Levinas to Derrida, and Augustine to Lacan. Together, the contributors challenge the belief that meaningful action is simply the successful assertion of will, that politics is ultimately reducible to “might makes right.” From a variety of perspectives, they suggest that grounding human action and politics in materialist critique offers revolutionary possibilities that transcend the nihilism inherent in both contemporary liberal democratic theory and neoconservative ideology.

Contributors. Anthony Baker, Daniel M. Bell Jr., Phillip Blond, Simon Critchley, Conor Cunningham, Creston Davis, William Desmond, Hent de Vries, Terry Eagleton, Rocco Gangle, Philip Goodchild, Karl Hefty, Eleanor Kaufman, Tom McCarthy, John Milbank, Antonio Negri, Catherine Pickstock, Patrick Aaron Riches, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Regina Mara Schwartz, Kenneth Surin, Graham Ward, Rowan Williams, Slavoj Žižek


Theology and the Political is a helpful book because it gathers in one volume a representative sample of very serious theologians. . . .” — Stephen H. Webb, First Things

“[A] collection of this caliber on such a timely subject is to be welcomed.” — D. W. Congdon, Princeton Theological Review

“[A] patient reader will be rewarded with some intriguing perspectives and insights that take seriously the difficult challenge confronting political action in the context of global capitalism.” — Christopher Craig Brittain, Dalhousie Review

“[T]hat there is no majority discourse in the book is to the credit of the editors for it has increased the depth and variance of the analyses presented, allowing the book to become more fully a ‘debate.’ Though this format often leads the reader to feel as if the book is somewhat schizophrenic, this is ultimately its greatest strength and precisely why it is worth reading.” — Anthony Paul Smith, Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory

“The new debate referenced in this rich, lengthy, and important collection is a desperately urgent debate. . . . [T]he work itself functions as a symphony, building between and among chapters to orchestrate a complex and fruitful investigation of some of the most crucial theoretical issues we face in our contemporary world and includes some of the most influential contemporary philosophers and theologians working today.” — Clayton Crockett, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

“This book is another ‘deliberate kick against the tide of the times.’” — Stephen Webb, Insights

“This volume is . . . . a welcome and much-needed wake-up call— if not a call to arms, then no less radically because it is a scandal to the postmodern mind, at least a call to truth and its consequences.” — Jeffrey W. Robbins, Political Theology

“Underlying all the very varied essays in this volume is a set of issues about how we understand human action. And what the essays have in common, I believe, is a conviction that the fundamental requirement of a politics worth the name is that we have an account of human action that decisively marks its distance from assumptions about action as the successful assertion of will. If there is no hinterland to human acting except the contest of private and momentary desire, meaningful action is successful action, an event in which a particular will has imprinted its agenda on the ‘external’ world. Or, in plainer terms, meaning is power . . . and any discourse of justice is illusory.” — Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, from the introduction


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Creston Davis is a doctoral candidate in philosophical theology at the University of Virginia.

John Milbank is a professor of religion, politics, and ethics at the University of Nottingham. His books include Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon and Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason.

Slavoj Žižek is a senior researcher at the Institute for Social Studies in Ljubljana, Slovenia. He is the author of Tarrying with the Negative: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology, editor of Cogito and the Unconscious: Kant, Hegel, and the Critique of Ideology, and coeditor of Perversion and the Social Relation and Gaze and Voice as Love Objects, all also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Introduction / Rowan Williams 1

Part I. Revolution and Theological Difference

Tragedy and Revolution / Terry Eagleton 7

Metanoia: The Theological Praxis of Revolution / Creston Davis and Patrick Aaron Riches 22

The “Thrilling Romance of Orthodoxy” / Slavoj Zizek 52

Nothing is Something Must Be: Lacan and Creation from No One / Conor Cunningham 72

Revelation and Revolution / Regina Mara Schwartz 102

Part 2. Ontology, Capital, and Kingdom

Capital and Kingdom: An Eschatological Ontology / Philip Goodchild 127

Neither Servility nor Sovereignty: Between Metaphysics and Politics / William Desmond 153

Of Chrematology: Joyce and Money / Simon Chritchley and Tom McCarthy 183

Only Jesus Saves: Toward a Theopolitical Ontology of Judgment / Daniel M. Bell Jr. 200

Part 3. Infinite Desire and the Political Subject

The Political Subject and Absolute Immanence / Antonio Negri 231

Rewriting the Ontological Script of Liberation: On the Question of Finding a New Kind of Political Subject / Kenneth Surin 240

Ecclesia: The Art of the Virtual / Anthony Baker and Rocco Gangle 267

The Univocalist Mode of Production / Catherine Pickstock 281

Part 4. Reenchanting the Political beyond Ontotheology

The Unbearable Withness of Being: On the Essentialist Blind Spot of Anit-ontotheology / Mary-Jane Rubenstein 340

“To Cut Too Deeply and Not Enough”: Violence and the Incorporeal / Elanor Kaufman 350

The Two Sources of the “Theological Machine:: Jacques Derrida and Henri Bergson on Religion, Technicity, War, and Terror / Hent de Vries 366

Part 5. Theological Materialism

Materialism and Transcendence / John Milbank 393

Truth and Peace: Theology and the Body Politic in Augustine and Hobbes / Karl Hefty 427

The Politics of the Eye: Toward a Theological Materialism / Phillip Blond 439

Notes on Contributors 463

Index 467
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3472-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3460-6
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