STASIS

Issue 2
About EUSP

This issue of STASIS deals with the topic of “political theology.” Although the term has a wide range of meanings, the articles presented here deal with the more radical forms of both politics and religion. The catch that emerges is that such radicalism may be either reactionary, seeking to restore a lost and mythical Golden, or it may seek a progressive and revolutionary overthrowing of the current situation. This tension within radicalism pertains not merely to politics, but very much to religion itself. So, how does one assess such a tension? The articles in this issue do so by means of either theoretical interventions or case studies.

Abstract

What is the relationship between (radical) politics and religion? Is it a process of secularisation, in which once theological terms are emptied of their content and replaced with political content? Is it a relation of absolute source and origin, which thereby continues to determine the nature of political debate (Schmitt 2005 [1922])? Or is religion merely one narrative, one set of terms or language that has its own limits and possibilities? Only to the last question do I offer a positive answer. This answer takes the form of a model of translation for understanding the relations between politics and religion, using the example of party and church (I have dealt elsewhere with revolution and miracle (or grace) and with Marxist history and eschatology). The model has four parts. The first proposes that politics and religion may be seen as languages or codes, with each term constituted by a semantic field. When the fields come into contact, the overlap between them is never complete, for something is always left over. Second, this situation means that translation may enhance the terms in question, but certain senses particular to each field may also be lost. Third, the terms in question also resist complete absorption by each other. Indeed, the very act of translation fosters resistance and semi-autonomy, so that the terms develop counter meanings. This leads to the fourth point, which concerns dialectical interchange, in which the semantics fields engage, move and back and forth, seek each other out, and yet resist being completely transformed. The argument closes by considering implications for understanding the model of translation, specifically the absence of any absolute claim by either politics or religion, the undermining of a hierarchical relation between these languages, and the ad hoc production of meaning within and between each language.

Keywords

church, party, politics, radical religion, translation

Abstract

Max Horkheimer concludes Eclipse of Reason with a call for
“faith in philosophy.” He contends that the purpose of philosophy is to translate the suffering of martyrs into a broadly understandable idiom through which to express a critique of instrumental reason and its destructive potential. Horkheimer concludes Eclipse of Reason having offered scant details of how this translation project should work. Moreover, if readers take seriously Horkheimer’s insistence upon philosophy as an object of faith, then his project risks being saddled with an untenable distinction between “good” and “bad” religion. I describe an avenue whereby the details of Horkheimer’s translation project might be fleshed out, including freeing it from the good/bad distinction that threatens to undermine its feasibility. I contend that the figure of the Hebrew prophet serves as a model of the individual who critiques oppressive social systems, and I argue that Cornel West’s description of cultural workers as critical organic catalysts offers a model for such critique in a modern Western context. Given some surprising parallels between Horkheimer’s thought and Al-Qaeda members’ self-descriptions—in particular, regarding the power and importance of suffering—I contend that the realization of Horkheimer’s philosophical project offers a promising avenue for nonviolent engagement with religious extremism in the era of the Global War on Terror.

Keywords

Al-Qaeda, Cornel West, Faisal Devji, global war on terror, Max Horkheimer, pragmatism, terrorism

Abstract

In Romans 13 Paul toned down the revolutionary potential of Christianity connected with eschatological ideas like the kingdom of God. He was a kind of political realist and his spiritualizing tendency was not that of a social revolutionary. However, the spiritual change preached by Paul influenced attitudes and through them also social life far beyond the limits Paul could ever have imagined. In a sense, Paul’s eschatological fantasy comes true via spiritual change.

Keywords

Apostle Paul, Authorities, Baptism, Equality, Law of the stronger, Romans 13

Abstract

Best known as a biblical scholar, the two main works by W. T. Chu (Zhu Weizhi 朱維之 1905–1999), Christianity and Literature and Twelve Lectures on Biblical Literature are regarded as classics in the field. But Chu also used his extensive knowledge of the Bible to portray Jesus in his often overlooked work Jesus, the Proletarian, a book deserved of more attention than it has so far received. Touching on many issues central to liberation theology and Christian socialism, Jesus, the Proletarian has major implications for our evaluation not only of Chu himself, but also for our understanding of Christian socialism in pre-Communist China, the social and cultural milieu in which it developed, and its influence on how Christians at the time understood the Bible. In contrast to the highly theological approach of T. C. Chao’s The Life of Jesus, Chu’s Jesus, the Proletarian attempts to sum up the revolutionary spirit of Christian thought of the time, and can be grouped together with Zhang’s The Revolutionary Carpenter and N. Z. Xie’s The Gospel of the Oppressed as one of the three main works on Christian socialism in China. This article examines Chu’s oft-overlooked work, focusing on how he applies a Marxist perspective to his portrayal of Jesus, as well as his ideas on how Christianity has historically been misappropriated and used as a tool of capitalist and imperialist aggression. The article then discusses the reasons why this portrayal of Jesus as a liberator of the oppressed was published in 1950, only to fall into obscurity soon thereafter.

Keywords

Chinese Christian materialism, Jesus, Marxism, the proletarian, W. T. Chu

Abstract

As pointed out by John Taylor, both the Old Testament and Virgil’s Aeneid evoke “the grand theme of national identity linked to cosmic purposes […] the formation of a people under the superintending hand of Providence.” The many narratives of the Marxist tradition—including the Communist Manifesto, Lassalle’s idea of the Fourth Estate, Kautsky’s Erfurt Program, Lenin’s “heroic scenario,” and the “socialist realist” novels of the Stalin era—are based on the same logic. All these narratives tell of a collectivity that, by the very act of fighting for survival in a hostile world, is destined to carry out a world-historical mission. These narratives also share a particular reflexive quality: their plots center on a protagonist’s gradual realization of his role in a grander, all-encompassing historical narrative. An emblem of this feature is the Shield of Aeneas, which (in contrast to the Shield of Achilles) outlines a world-historical narrative, namely, the rise of Rome. In this way, Aeneas is the prototype of the “inspired and inspiring hero” central to Marxist narratives of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Aeneid can thus be termed “the first socialist realist novel.”

Keywords

Aeneid, epic, Marxism, socialist realism, world-historical mission

Abstract

This essay is an attempt to develop a more consistent understanding of the success of the Russian Revolution by involving the culturally particular setting in which the revolution happened: namely, the cultural dominance of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the religion professed by the majority of Russians in 1917. In critiquing Antonio Gramsci’s interpretation of the success of the revolution, the paper examines the multiple meanings of the Eastern Orthodox Christian idea of sobornost (conciliarity) and the type of collectivism it promotes. It goes on to argue that this experience and familiarity with religious sobornii/conciliar collectivism resulted in the formation of a functionally analogous secular political phenomenon during the revolution, namely the workers’ councils (soviets), the sine qua non of Russian Revolutionary success.

Keywords

Antonio Gramsci, communism, cultural hegemony, Russian revolution, sobornost

Abstract

This article looks at the shift between logical and temporal vocabularies, called by Kenneth Burke the temporizing of essence. It combines “logology” with a rhetorical analysis of how it was applied in a concrete historical situation as a means of persuasion. First, I discuss Burke’s logology, which is the theory underlying the idea of temporized essence. Second, I turn to the notion in relation to its two main forms, origins and fruition; third, Finnish clerical rhetoric during the Continuation War 1941–44 will be analyzed using ideas drawn on logology.

Keywords

clergy, Finland, logology, Kenneth Burke, the temporizing of essence, war rhetoric

Abstract

This article examines a passage concerning the cult of Dionysus in Michel Foucault’s 1970–71 lecture series Lectures on the Will to Know (2013; Leçons sur la volonté de savoir 2011). The article shows how the intensification of ritual prescriptions is associated with socio-political changes. The cult of Dionysus is located in the political field, and the passage is contextualized by literature from classical scholarship. The discussion is embedded in the analysis of truth: the cult and the societal aspects are connected to power in Foucault’s 1970–71 lectures by the key theoretical concept of simulacrum.
The article deals particularly with legislation as one of the societal changes Foucault associates with increased ritualism: the introduction of publicly recognized laws—visible to all and applied by everyone—implies power that is exercised through and by all citizens. The cult of Dionysus is analyzed as an anti-system in opposition to prevailing social practices and official religious forms. Foucault points out that the cult manages to slip away from certain traditional systems of power. The article claims, however, that as the official status of the cult is strengthened in the classical era, performing the rites also serves the individualization process of the new political culture and its legislation, which is not necessarily liberating. In this way, the inaugural lecture series is connected to Foucault’s later work on governmentality—techniques of governing the self and the others.

Keywords

Dionysus, Foucault, governance, individual, popular religion, power, simulacrum