biopolitics, capitalism, Foucault, Hegel, political theology, socialism, voyeurism

A Future Project for Political Theology

A problem with US pragmatism, especially US jurisprudence: changing the commodity form (e.g. vhs or cassette to digital or in this case, landline to wireless) somehow means the ‘rights’ of a previous form, like copyright or consumer ownerships, has to be reinstated in the new content form (e.g the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) because the previous rights do not seem to entirely transfer automatically.

This vision of newness without continuity–newness as sheer autonomy in order to be authentically new–stays until ‘unfortunately conquered’ by an old but equally large vision (like different types of the public good: the common good or its perversion called the greater good). This seems to be another, albeit apocalyptic, articulation of the old, conflicted division in liberalism of property vs. equality: property is ‘free’ until re-imagined as a communal good because all own themselves equally. Considering this, even if one could make a law establishing a more direct link between different forms such that the re-imagining is never even an issue, I am suspicious that US pragmatism would thoroughly resist the link.

I also wonder, then, if the real question posed to the globe isn’t the red herring of capitalism vs. socialism, but between a pragmatist neo-liberalism (with the illusionary choice to be surveilled) or a fused capitalist and state absolutism like that articulated by Hegel (or a softer version called liberal communitarianism) now wedded with obligatory and invasive surveillance, a la the NSA. The point is, whichever variation or combination of the two options that will be the new political economy, it will be its own mode of voyeuristic absolutism.

And if anything is contrary to such new ‘political bonds,’ it will be a terrorist or spy, or both. We see the beginning of this in the conviction of Plowshare activists as terrorists and the US has charged Edward Snowden with variations of espionage: “theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence [sic] information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.” This re-defined reality is not the beginning of the eschaton as dispensationalists and conservative US evangelicals tend to proclaim–one does not even opt into a ‘beast mark’ here–but rather, this is a furthering of the attempt to ‘end’ history by controlling humanity’s telos via a thoroughgoing biopolitics made possible by this near-total voyeurism.

Theology will probably respond with “Maranatha!”, critical Orwellian appeals, or ‘super sizing’ Foucault’s analysis of the panopticon, but we need a better response. I suspect part of the future task of political theology will lie in confronting voyeuristic absolutism because it will be part of the unifying and protective force of an even more static classism that, in new and old ways, will continue to oppose the theopolitics of the gospel option.

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Hegel

Read John Piper as a Hegelian and All Will be Clear

First let me say, it has been years since I’ve read John Piper; however, much to my frustration, Piper’s maxims are still stuck in my head. And therefore, frankly, I do not believe I need to go back and read him. Yes, I do believe there is little more to his theology than the surface of his maxims. Besides, there are far bigger and more important fish to fry — and I really need to finish this Hegel, Benjamin, and Theology of History paper. Still, while reading Hegel’s Intro to the Philosophy of World History, Piper popped into my mind. After spending more time in reflection than I am comfortable with, I’m pretty sure the best way to read John Piper is through Hegel’s sense of God-for-itself and glory. And frankly, such an association is rather damning. Case in point, I believe that the following quote fully comprehends and summarizes Piper’s anemic theology:

From the point of view of religion, the aim of both natural existence and spiritual activity is the glorification of God. Indeed, this is the worthiest end of the spirit and of history. The nature of the spirit is to make itself its own object and to comprehend itself.

Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History Introduction: Reason in History, Translated by H.B. Nisbet, pages 149-150.

Now, of course Piper would not be a good Hegelian. He wouldn’t subscribe to Hegel’s Trinitarian modalism (see Cyril O’Regan’s Heterodox Hegel) — Piper wouldn’t follow the philosophical nuances that ultimately define Hegel’s conception of divinity and revelation — and then again, Piper wouldn’t follow the leftists and their materialism. What I am saying here is that the best way to read Piper is through Hegel. And that should be all you need to know about Piper — he shares a narcissistic God with Hegel.

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Hegel

Hegel on American Law and Economics

In further comparing North America with Europe, we find in the former the perennial example of a republican system of government. There is an inner unity in it, for there is a president as head of state who is elected for only four years (as security against any possible monarchical ambitions). The general protection of property and the almost total absence of taxes are continually commended. This shows us the basic character of the society: it is marked by the private person’s striving for acquisition and profit and by the predominance of a private interest which devotes itself to the community for personal benefit alone. There is, to be sure, a legal system, and a formal coed of laws; but this legality has nothing to do with integrity — and so the American merchants have the bad reputation of cheating with the protection of the law.

Hegel, Introduction to the Philosophy of History, translated by Leo Rauch, 88-89.

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