The essays in this new book from John Milbank range over the entire field of theology, and both extend and enrich the theological perspective underlying his earlier Theology and Social Theory. The essays are focused around the theme of a theological approach to language, and offer a richly textured and broad ranging inquiry which will contribute to a variety of contemporary debates.
Radical Orthodoxy is a new wave of theological thinking that seeks to re-inject the modern world with theology. The group of theologians associated with Radical Orthodoxy are dissatisfied with conteporary theolgical responses to both modernity and postmodernity Radical Orthodoxy is a collection that aims to reclaim the world by situating its concerns and activities within a theological framework. By mapping the new theology against a range of areas where modernity has failed, these essays offer us way out of the impasses (...) that postmodernity represents. (shrink)
As others have argued, modern liberalism can be seen as dominated by the biopolitical. In both the economic and the political realms, this involves a contradictory notion of how the natural gives rise to the cultural and the cultural both suppresses and advances the natural. On either side of this divide, uncontrollable excesses arise, which ensure that this immanentist model is never immune from the return of the theopolitical in a bastardized form. Antique notions of natural justice to some degree (...) escaped these aporias, and yet antiquity had its own version of the biopolitical with its own contradictions: particularly as to whether justice consists in an exchanged balance of legal obligations or a unilateral imposition of equity in the face of living exigencies. Both models of the biopolitical ultimately seek to shore up a doomed finite life in the face of death and hence place limits on the hope for human justice. Only St Paul presented an alternative vision, which makes life itself infinitely indestructible and co-terminous both with meaning and with human existence. His counterfactual of `resurrection' allowed him to imagine an unreserved possibility of human justice beyond legality, which blends equity with hierarchical guidance and makes justice coincide with the entire fulfilment of every human being in relation to all others. Any secular alternative to this is bound to be less radical. (shrink)
Invoking Zygmunt Bauman’s acute exposition of a left-critical hesitation between intellectuals as saviours and intellectuals as oppressors, this essay argues that while Bauman reveals this hesitation as crucial and symptomatic, nevertheless he leaves it unresolved. The essay shows how the human nature/ culture distinction is, in fact, constitutive of human culture as such; moreover, the essay argues that this constitutive distinction reproduces itself within culture in terms of reciprocal hierarchies of social division — intellectual/non-intellectual, shamanistic/folk, aristocratic/popular. This pattern of vertical (...) reciprocity is precisely what the purely horizontal axis of capitalist-bureaucratic liberalism excludes, collapsing the hierarchical axis of political culture into the horizontal false-binary of ‘left’ versus ‘right’. In this way the essay argues that the crux of an authentic resistance to capitalist-bureaucratic liberalism will involve not a triumph of the ‘left’ over the ‘right’ , but the retrieval of the dynamic paradox of the vertical axis of the hierarchical communion of guiding excellence fused with popular spontaneity. The hierarchical yet dynamically educative interplay between innovators and those being constantly innovated is the organic root of human culture and the means of the authentic practice of human justice. (shrink)
Two expert authors combine a compelling critique of contemporary liberalism with post-liberal alternatives in politics, the economy, culture and international affairs, to provide the fullest account so far of the post-liberal alternative in Western politics.
Managerialism in the Church is rooted in the very character of Reformation theology. The letter's understanding of salvation as imputation and its reduction of the importance for salvation of belonging to the Church encourages the idea that there is a religious 'product' which can be managed and marketed. Modern evangelicalism consummates this tendency and uniquely allows a combining of the capitalist product with the capitalist actor. 'Fresh Expressions' in the Church of England fuses this trend with a liberal ideology of (...) choice and the assumption that parish life must inevitably decline. The new modes of Church which it sponsors deny the very idea of the need to encounter different others in a specific locality which is crucial to the Pauline notion of the Body of Christ. It is hence a misconstrual of Christianity as such. (shrink)
Today we live in very peculiar circumstances indeed. The welfare of this world is being wrecked by the ideology of neo-liberalism, and yet its historical challengers—conservatism and socialism—are in total disarray. Socialism, in particular, appears to have been wrong-footed by the discovery that liberalism and not socialism is the bearer of “modernity” and “progress.” As the suspicion arises that perhaps modernity and progress are themselves by no means on the side of justice, then socialists today characteristically begin to suspect that (...) their own traditions, in their Marxist, Social Democratic, and Fabian forms, have been too grounded in modes of thought…. (shrink)
The current global economic crisis concerns the way in which contemporary capitalism has turned to financialisation as a double cure for both a falling rate of profit and a deficiency of demand. Although this turning is by no means unprecedented, policies of financialisation have depressed demand while at the same time not proving adequate to restore profits and growth. This paper argues that the current crisis is less the ‘normal’ one that has to do with a constitutive need to balance (...) growth of abstract wealth with demand for concrete commodities. Rather, it marks a meta-crisis of capitalism that is to do with the difficulties of sustaining abstract growth as such. This meta-crisis is the tendency at once to abstract from the real economy of productive activities and to reduce everything to its bare materiality. By contrast with a market economy that binds material value to symbolic meaning, a capitalist economy tends to separate matter from symbol and reduce materiality to calculable numbers representing ‘wealth’. Such a conception of wealth rests on the aggregation of abstract numbers that cuts out all the relational goods and the ‘commons’ on which shared prosperity depends. (shrink)
The Summer 2004 issue of the "Journal of Religious Ethics" included papers by James Wetzel, Gordon Michalson, Jennifer Herdt, and David Craig that assessed my interpretation of certain historical figures and texts. These papers also considered the place of those interpretations in my normative theology. This response spells out the relationship, as I see it, between historical inquiry and theological utterance and then addresses some of the concerns posed in those papers.
Community and Gift Despite growing uneasiness about the economic and social consequences of the free market, today socialism, like religion, exhibits merely a spectral reality. It no longer seems either plausible or rational, and it has been consigned to the realm of faith. Yet, as with Christianity, socialism still haunts the West because nothing has emerged to replace it. Just as the story of a compassionate God who became a man was seen as the “final religion,” so the hope of (...) a universal fraternity based on sharing was seen as “the final politics.” With its demise, all that seems to…. (shrink)
The article discusses the history of monotheism from the earliest times to the present. It begins with arguments against the notion of monotheists as an evolutionarily early stage in religion and then proceeds to characterize monotheism in the Old testament. The view that there was every a pre‐monotheistic phase of one ‘national God’ is called into question, along with the priority of the ‘God of history’ over the creator God. Association of the divine with social justice is shown to be (...) common to the ancient Near East as a whole; however, Israelite monotheism, it is argued, was associated with a kind of conservatism which preserved more features of an oral and gift‐exchange culture, while calling into question the more fetishistic aspects of such culture. Monotheism, it is claimed, is what refutes both myth and rationalism, while the superiority of one God to many gods is defended in connection with the theme of peace. The final section deals with the three monotheistic faiths, and argues that Christianity, with its doctrines of incarnation and the Trinity, is not qualifying monotheism and its distinctive features as just adumbrated, but on the contrary developing it in the purest and most consistent form. (shrink)