Thursday, March 24, 2011

Off to the PIC conference

Almost everything is ready for the road trip to Binghamton for the PIC conference (see here). Most importantly, the paper is ready, although, like the other times I've prepared for talks, I have too much material. The title is "Spinoza versus Schmitt: The Politics of Theology and the Theology of Politics." A bit of cut and paste produces the following summary:

This talk opposes the politicization of theology to the theologization of politics, as two systematic interpretations of the relation between politics, philosophy, religion, and theology. For Schmitt, the theologization of politics (or 'political theology' properly speaking) functions to limit the possibilities of praxis, condemning in advance attempts to revolutionize or transform politics, by restricting all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state to those with theological correspondences (others being infringements based on natural right or economic-managerial tasks).

To politicize and historicize religious belief and theology is to expand the possibilities of organizing political space rather than the attempt to restrict and curtail them. Politicizing theology allows us to think theology as one way in which politics is conceptualized or spoken, rather than presenting it as an originary ground of political concepts.

Politicizing theology also requires thinking it as a locus of social struggle, in which the significance of religious teaching is itself contested. In Spinoza's Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, it is obedience to and reverence for God that has two opposed meanings that are divided along political lines. On the one hand, obedience is often conceived as submission to sovereign and religious authority as a way of controlling the activities of the multitude. On the other hand, ‘obedience’ can be democratic and universal; it aims to promote justice and charity (and love of one’s neighbor). Based on works rather than thoughts, it affirms freedom of conscience. This is the basis of what we might call Spinoza’s 'democratic hegemony' of those who are dedicated to works of justice and charity, love of one’s neighbor, and, more problematically, real equality.

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