books, political theology

A Not-So-Theological Book List for Political Theology

Daniel asked about a book list of ethics and politics works of the not-so-theological variety for those in political theology. I take this to be a book list both about people who at least are not theologians and/or works that may not even consider the place of theology. It covers political theory, continental philosophy, and a few other subjects, but it certainly is not exhaustive — in fact it may really be a poor introduction to people and writings I think are important to know and work with or against. If you’ve got any books to add, please do.

Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince

Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668, The Elements of Law, Natural and Politic, and Man and Citizen: De Homine and De Cive

GWF Hegel (specifically these editions): Phenomenology of Spirit, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion One-Volume Edition, The Lectures of 1827, and Lectures on the Philosophy of World History

John Locke: Two Treatises of Government and Political Essays

Jean-Jacques Rousseau: ‘The Social Contract’ and Other Later Political Writings

Karl Marx: just start with The Marx-Engels Reader (Second Edition) — it has Marx’s important essays on Hegel and Feuerbach, among other writings. Of course there is Capital starting with Volume 1: A Critique of Political Economy (Penguin Classics)

Friedrich Nietzsche: Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Will to Power (Volumes I and II), and Beyond Good and Evil

John Rawls: A Theory of Justice: Original Edition, Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, and A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin and Faith: With “On My Religion”

Carl Schmitt: The Concept of the Political, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, Political Theology II: The Myth of the Closure of any Political Theology, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol, Roman Catholicism and Political Form, Legality and Legitimacy, and of course Constitutional Theory

An edited volume by Chantal Mouffe on Carl Schmitt: The Challenge of Carl Schmitt

Walter Benjamin, aka anti-Schmitt: Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings, an excellent commentary by Michael Löwy Fire Alarm: Reading Walter Benjamin’s “On the Concept of History”, and of course, if you have the time and the interest, The Arcades Project

Michel Foucault: Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison, The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction, and The Archaeology of Knowledge & The Discourse on Language are all well known, and certainly worth reading, but I find more interesting and helpful his lectures at the College de France: Security, Territory, Population, The Birth of Biopolitics, The Government of Self and Others

Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, On Revolution, The Human Condition (2nd Edition), On Violence, and The Origins of Totalitarianism

Giorgio Agamben: Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, State of Exception, Means Without End: Notes on Politics, and his commentary on Romans, The Time That Remains

Alain Badiou: Being and Event, Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, and Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil

Slavoj Žižek: The Parallax View, The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic? with Milbank and Davis, and The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity

The publication of Harink’s Paul and Philosophers conference that I was at some years back: Paul, Philosophy, and the Theopolitical Vision: Critical Engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Zizek and Others

Jean Baudrillard: Simulacra and Simulation

Jacob Taubes: From Cult to Culture: Fragments Toward a Critique of Historical Reason, The Political Theology of Paul, and Occidental Eschatology

Sheldon Wolin: Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Political Thought

Gillian Rose: The Broken Middle: Out of Our Ancient Society and Hegel Contra Sociology

Chantal Mouffe: Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics with Ernesto Laclau, The Democratic Paradox, On the Political, and The Return of the Political

David Harvey: A Brief History of Neoliberalism, The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism, and A Companion to Marx’s Capital

Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri:
Empire

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books, political theology

A Short Book List on Political Theology

I just gave a paper at Calvin’s Religion and Politics Symposium. There I was asked about books on political theology by a political science phd student. I thought this list might do well on the internet too, so here is a short list that I believe would introduce well, but certainly not exhaust, political theology for someone in political science.

Important Introductions:
Editors William Cavanaugh and Peter Scott’s The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology

Michael Kirwan’s Political Theology: An Introduction

Gary Dorrien’s Social Ethics in the Making: Interpreting an American Tradition and Economy, Difference, Empire: Social Ethics for Social Justice

And here are more books for further reading if you’re interested:

Systematicians, Ethicists, and Political Theologians:
John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus

Stanley Hauerwas and Rom Cole’s Christianity, Democracy, and the Radical Ordinary: Conversations between a Radical Democrat and a Christian and Stanley Hauerwas’s Naming the Silences

William Cavanaugh’s Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church, The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict, and Torture and Eucharist: Theology, Politics, and the Body of Christ

Delores S. Williams’s Sisters in the Wilderness

Oliver O’Donovan’s The Desire of the Nations: Rediscovering the Roots of Political Theology

Traci C. West’s Disruptive Christian Ethics

Jon Sobrino’s No Salvation Outside the Poor: Prophetic-Utopian Essays

Graham Ward’s The Politics of Discipleship: Becoming Postmaterial Citizens and Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice

James Cone’s God of the Oppressed

Lee Griffith’s The War on Terrorism and the Terror of God

Editors Creston Davis, John Milbank, and Slavoj Zizek’s Theology and the Political: The New Debate

Oscar Romero’s Voice of the Voiceless: The Four Pastoral Letters and Other Statements

Joerg Rieger, Jun Mo Sung, and Nestor Miguez’s Beyond the Spirit of Empire

Charles Curran’s Catholic Social Teaching, 1891-Present: A Historical, Theological, and Ethical Analysis

Biblical Studies:
Richard Bauckham’s The Bible in Politics: How to Read the Bible Politically

J. G. McConville’s God and Earthly Power: An Old Testament Political Theology

Walter Brueggemann’s Journey to the Common Good

Theology, Philosophy, and the History of Thought:
Editors Cole and Smith’s The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory

Louis Dupré’s Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture

Michael Gillespie’s The Theological Origins of Modernity

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books, political theology

A Must-Read Introduction to Political Theology

In the past few years, I have made a point to keep track of introductory books primarily because, from time to time, people ask about books to read. And with future prospects for teaching, I pay even more attention to introductory books — particularly on topics that seem to rather misunderstood, like political theology.

Now, I’ve noticed a few different trends in how to introduce a subject. One way is to do something like a reader. The famous Blackwell Companion to Political Theology edited by Peter Scott and William Cavanaugh follows this route and function at times like a reference volume. There are obvious perks to this method: each chapter is written by a specialist and highly informative concerning its focus — be it person, topic, or movement. However, at times, such an introduction sometimes seems to miss conveying that a conversation is at hand and how different schools of thought interact, build off each other, etc. Also, introductions like Blackwell’s are very long, and for some, can be difficult to read through period, much less feel like one has a grip on the scholarly conversation. Simply put, the point of an introduction is to get the big picture and encyclopedic introductions do not always meet this need.

Now, there is another way: something like an informed conversation-lecture. This kind of introduction is incredibly difficult to do well: one must balance space, intellectual depth, readability — all the while conveying accurately the complex and multiple conversations, concerns, and stories. Until recently, I had felt that the contemporary discussion in political theology lacked such a volume. That is until I ran into Michael Kirwan’s Political Theology: An Introduction released last year.

Kirwan has written an excellent book. I have considered going back through his book to outline it here and list those who are given a voice, so as to show you how much ground he really covers, but this has proved more difficult that it appears. Crucial to writing such an excellent book is interweaving a multiplicity of voices, and this he does so from page one. To do him justice in summary, I simply do not have the time — he has covered much ground — and nor do I think I could faithfully convey the tone of the book. The way he engages material reminded me of the better conversations I have with professors in their offices: I had the feeling that I was in Kirwan’s office listening to him explain the field. His engagement with material was as if he pulling books from his shelves, showed me his worn copy, and talked about what was inside, all the while gesturing to books he already mentioned now piled on his desk, or ones we would get to still on the shelves.

Any teacher looking to touch on political theology should include this book in their class. Anyone looking for a reading list -– who they should read next or at least be aware of — should read this book. And just as important, those looking for why to read someone included in the book should read this book as well. As Kirwan makes connections between thinkers, he invariably provides answers to “Why” questions: primarily “Why should I care about so-and-so when I am concerned with this other conversation?” So not only does this book simply broaden one’s horizons, but challenges the reader to stretch themselves in the future — to read someone who initially seemed beyond their interests. This everyone needs, no matter how old they are.

I do not believe that the Blackwell Companion removes the need for Kirwan’s book, and vice versa. These two books together would set the interested reader on a strong path. But people already know about Blackwell’s Companion. So the conclusion here? Go read Kirwan’s book. You will not be disappointed.

If I were Kirwan’s Jesuit superior, I would lock him in an office all day long and order him to write many more introductions like this. This, among many other reasons, is probably why I am not his Jesuit superior. The University of London is lucky to have him.

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books

Summer Literature

I’ve been cursing French the past few weeks. I am sure I’ll curse it for a few more, partly because I’m taking a class in French and partly because the class has pushed aside nearly all my reading, much less theology reading (save for The Monstrosity of Christ).

Some of the literary books I am eager to get to after French I’ve known about since undergrad. Two specific ones are A Life of Jesus and Silence by Shusaku Endo. However, I suppose I should make time to finally read Gilead as well. And maybe this summer, I’ll finally get to the Russian novelists — yeah, how’s that for a confession? Perhaps this will be a summer of pure catch up for literature. The rest of the reading list is, of course, an assortment of theology books.

I am curious, what books are you reading this summer? And are there any I should consider that makes your heart three sizes bigger when you read it?

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