Friday 17 October 2008

On political theology, Jacob Taubes, and Picasso

Thanks to Danny for pointing us to the latest issue of the New German Critique, a special issue on political theology. There’s some great stuff here – loads of Schmitt, Benjamin, Agamben, and Taubes.

I especially liked Nitzan Lebovic’s excellent article, “The Jerusalem School: The Theopolitical Hour,” which explores “the strange reappearance of Carl Schmitt in the context of German Jewish thought after 1940.” Lebovic focuses on the relationships between Buber, Bergman, Taubes, and the right-wing former terrorist Geulah Cohen: “Political theology was where antinormative critics from the radical Left and the radical Right met, cooperated, and learned from each other before going their separate ways.” The relations between the work of Schmitt and these Jewish thinkers constitutes the necessary background for understanding Agamben’s project.

Speaking of Jacob Taubes, I’m very intrigued by this strange character (and his even stranger thought). Right now I’m reading the autobiographical novel, Divorcing (1969), by his wife Susan Taubes – the book describes her relationship with Taubes, and his many eccentricities. (She committed suicide a week after the novel was published.) At the Princeton University Art Museum, I’ve also been spending some time looking at this Picasso painting, which was presented to Jacob Taubes in 1957:


philq said...

The October 23rd issue of the New York Review of Books has an article by Mark Lilla about the new trend of philosophers interpreting Paul (include Taubes, Badiou, Zizek, and Agamben). Unfortunately, it's subscriber-only, and the bookstores around here still have the previous issue, so I have not yet gotten to read it. But it looks good.

James K.A. Smith said...

The Lilla piece is decent, but doesn't add much if you already know this material. He sees Taubes as pivotal--a kind of Jewish Carl Schmitt (!!!). He (rightly) writes off Agamben, and spends most of his time on Badiou's (supposedly) "revolutionary" Paul. The essay, like vintage Lilla, is lucid and engaging. The best piece is the last paragraph where he notes: "There is not a hint of love to be found in the new pomo Paul" (not sure that's entirely true of Zizek's Paul, but anyway...). And then the money quote, commenting on this pomo "longing" for revolution: "...its patron saint is not Paul of Tarsus. It is Emma Bovary

Anonymous said...


I'm curious: in what terms does Lilla "write off Agamben"? And in what sense do you think he does so "rightly"? I have found Agamben quite helpful in getting at some aspects of Paul's thought.

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