Translating Politics and Religion: A New Model
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 )? 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.
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