Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Political theology on the radio

ABC Radio National has a terrific new programme on political theology, featuring William Cavanaugh, Simon Critchley, Gopal Balakrishnan, and our own Scott Stephens.

The programme focuses especially on the legacy of Carl Schmitt. It’s a very wide-ranging discussion that moves through Thomas Hobbes, liberal democracy, capitalism, multiculturalism, secularisation, and the modern university. It’s great stuff – on the Radio National website, the programme is available both in audio and as a transcript. Here are a couple of highlights:

William Cavanaugh: “All politics are theological I think in the sense that they marshal large transcendent visions of human origins and human destiny.”

Scott Stephens: “One of the effects of our current celebration of tolerance, of the value of multiculturalism, … is the image of all of these different cultures, all of these different religions … living side by side in a benign inclination towards one another…. But what we don’t recognise is that the only way for all of these cultures to exist side by side, the only way for people to be able to opt in and opt out, … is for all of these cultures to be completely flattened out, to be hollowed out of any zestiness, of any distinctive or specific qualities…. These cultures can only exist side by side when they have already been hollowed out and co-opted by liberal capitalism. In other words, these cultures can only exists side by side once they have been transformed into relatively meaningless commodities. So I think what we need to recover today – and what I think political theology gives us – is the opportunity to recover something like authentic, profound, meaningful disagreement.”


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