Review essay: Moral realism, radical politics: A commentary on Terry Eagleton's holy terror

Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (9):1103-1111 (2008)
Some major leftist thinkers, including Alain Badiou, Slavoj Žižek and Terry Eagleton, have lately offered readings that claim the relevance of alternative interpretations of the Christian tradition in the face both of the conservative turn in the Catholic Church and of the contemporary secular oblivion of anything that has to do with religion. Furthermore, post-colonial studies have tended to blame the West en bloc for the disasters of past and present colonization, and have attacked the western endeavour to extend universal truths as an ethnocentric device to facilitate and justify exploitation. In Holy Terror, Terry Eagleton both condemns western politics and questions its appeal to universals; but he also hears in this tradition a demand for a relationship with the other which offers an alternative to that established by current politics and capitalist exploitation. The other is the excluded, the oppressed, the exploited; the true material, rather than ideal, universal produced by global capitalist exploitation. As a consequence, anything that happens in any part of the planet belongs in our world and indicts us, though we tend to build barriers around an ideally safe and stable identity that ignores part of its own reality and that is therefore haunted by it. Texts like the Bacchae or the New Testament open the gates of the city and of the heart to the excluded. Terrorists — saints for their own communities and satanic for the rest — offer an example of the other that is impossible to comprehend within our conventional ways of life. Nevertheless, only if we hear in their violence a demand for justice can an exit be found from the vicious circle of violence and revenge
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DOI 10.1177/0191453708095698
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