Political theologies


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Title Political theologies
Period 01 / 2001 - unknown
Status Completed
Research number OND1285251
Data Supplier Website ASCA


The apparent return of the religious as a decisive factor at the geopolitical stage conflicts with the self-interpretation of modern nation-states as well as of their citizens. The supposedly enlightened and increasingly differentiated public sphere has in the modern period gone hand in hand with the formulation of ideals of individual autonomy and universalist cosmopolitanism both of which seem at odds with the heteronomy and particularism commonly ascribed to religious doctrine and its practices. This hegemony of the secularist understanding of Western modernitya hegemony only reinforced by current tendencies towards globalization and the almost unchallenged, worldwide appeal of free market capitalismcan hardly be overestimated. However, this uncontested and often self-congratulatory narrative has from the outset also obfuscated the fact that in most of its historical formations, the concept of the political had to some extent always been contingent upon the sanction, if not always upon the authority of the dominant religion, then at least upon a plausible translation and renegotiation of the central categories of its beliefs, its rituals, and its practical politics. The political, whatever the secularism and discursive modes of its theoretical justification, was always already inherently theological, premised upon a "mystical foundation," as Jacques Derrida, following Montaigne and Pascal has reminded us in his "Force of Law." Indeed, one does not have to wait until the publication of Carl Schmitts Political Theology, nor, to be sure, share any of its more dubious presuppositions and implications, to be able to discern the systematic relevance of the divine for the terrestrial and the profane. From Augustine's City of God, as pointed out by Theodor W. Adorno in his famous essay "Progress," through the contractarian theories of natural right, analyzed by Patrick Rily in his studies devoted to The General Will before Rousseau, all the way upto the studies of Claude Lefort and Ernesto Laclau concerning the empty signifier of sovereignty, the theologico-political has played a determining, if often oblique, function. Conversely, all the historical religions as well as those that haunt the contemporary imagination have always supplemented their beliefs, rituals, and institutions with a politics of sorts. As a result of these two converging tendenciesthe stretching out of the political to the transcendental, and vice versathe separation between the domains of religion and the state (as those of revelation and reason) was from the outset at least as problematical and artificial and forced as it was necessary or inevitable. In order to study the multifaceted historical, systematic, rhetorical, and pragmatic aspects and implications of the relation between religion and nation-states, cultural identity and liberal democracy, the interdisciplinary workshops and conference will bring together scholars in religion, philosophy, anthropology, and political science. Central topics will be 1. Historical Perspectives: Religion, State, Power, 2. Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives: Religion and Cultural Identity, 3. World Religions and the Politics of Globalization, and 4. Religion, Liberal Democracy, and the Politics of Identity. NWO (The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) has responded favourably to a joint application by the Harvard Center for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) and ASCA for the considerable subvention of two international workshops and one conference on the subject of Political Theologies, to be held in the Fall of 2000, the Fall of 2001, and the Spring of 2002. NWO will support the project during these years and will match exactly the sum that the Harvards CSWR and ASCA had committed together. Possible additional funding that might further solidify the institutional cooperation between the CSWR and ASCA seems likely as does the intensive cooperation with the UCLA Paris Program in Critical Theory directed by Professor Samuel Weber.

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Project leader Prof.dr. H. de Vries


D33000 Theology and religious studies

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