Friday, August 24, 2007

cocerning political theology

The twilight of the idols has been postponed. For more than two centuries, from the American and French Revolutions to the collapse of Soviet Communism, world politics revolved around eminently political problems. War and revolution, class and social justice, race and national identity — these were the questions that divided us. Today, we have progressed to the point where our problems again resemble those of the 16th century, as we find ourselves entangled in conflicts over competing revelations, dogmatic purity and divine duty. We in the West are disturbed and confused. Though we have our own fundamentalists, we find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still stir up messianic passions, leaving societies in ruin. We had assumed this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions from political ones, that fanaticism was dead. We were wrong. - Mark Lilla (NY Times mag)
The above quote from the this article - The Politics of God.

I confess I haven't read it but on the surface it seems relevant but then again the media seems to fail a lot at understanding the "faith factor" in contemporary American politics. Yes we have our fundamentalists and they are in major seats of power. This is not simply an Islamist phenomenon or the oriental other.

Larval Subjects produced this great quote from Marx on his blog thread about the above article.

There’s that terrific passage in Capital– “The Fetishism of the Commodity and Its Secret” –where Marx remarks that Protestant Christianity is the perfect religion for capitalism:

For a society of commodity producers, whose general social relation of production consists in the fact that they treat their products as commodities, hence as values, and in this material form bring their individual, private labours into relation with each other as homogenous human labour, Christianity with its religious cult of man in the abstract, more particularly in its bourgeois development, i.e. in Protestantism, Deism, etc., is the most fitting form of religion. In the ancient Asiatic, Classical-antique, and other such modes of production, the transformation of the product into a commodity, and therefore men’s existence as producers of commodities, plays a subordinate role, which however increases in importance as these communities approach nearer and nearer to the stage of their dissolution. Trading nations, properly so called, exist only in the interstices of the ancient world, like the gods of Epicurus in the intermundia, or Jews in the pores of Polish society. Those ancient social organisms of production are much more simple and transparent than those of bourgeois society. But they are founded either on the immaturity of man as an individual, when he has not yet torn himself loose from the ummbilical cord of his natural species-connection with other men, or on direct relations of dominance and servitude. They are conditioned by a low stage of development of the productive powers of labour and correspondingly limited relations between men within the process of creating and reproducing their material life, hence also limited relations between men and nature. These real limitations are reflected in the ancient worship of nature, and in other elements of tribal religions. The religious reflections of the real world can, in any case, vanish only when the practical relations of everyday life between man and man, and man and nature, generally present themselves to him in a transparent and rational form. The veil is not removed from the countenance of the social life-process, i.e. the process of material production, until it becomes production by freely associated men, and stands under their conscious and planned control. This, however, requires that society posses a material foundation, or a series of material conditions of existence, which in their turn are the natural and spontaneous product of a long and tormented historical development. (Fowkes trans, 172-173)

The operative words here are “cult of man in the abstract”, where the subject is conceived as separate and independent of his social and historical relations, i.e., bourgeois individualism reflected in the “personal relationship with God” and the ahistoricism of these religious movements. Yet how are Badiou and Zizek not simply giving us simply a secular form of this structure or phenomenon, and thereby reproducing, at a certain level of social relations, the very thing they claim to be targeting

Good question...

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