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Theology and Critical Political Theory (A Naive Rough Essay that is both overly broad and amateur)

Theology and Critical Political Theory (A Naive Rough Essay that is both overly broad and amateur)

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Published by Lucas Scott Wright
Argues in a very general format that the common features (again, general) in critical political theory draw upon a continued modern contingency, brought about by the enlightenment, upon bastardized theological categories.
Argues in a very general format that the common features (again, general) in critical political theory draw upon a continued modern contingency, brought about by the enlightenment, upon bastardized theological categories.

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Published by: Lucas Scott Wright on Feb 16, 2011
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Theology and Critical Political Theory: A Brief Theological Critique and Proposal
IntroductionCritical political theory is an intellectual/political movement within the broader  philosophical and social disciplines. As such, it is an active engagement that is enacted in acontingent relationship to particular historical developments that form the real-time contexts inwhich philosophical discourse takes place. In particular, this relationship for 20th century criticaltheory is illustrated in the lives of specific people and their writings that include the neo-Marxistsof the Frankfurt school and the French postmoderns. Similarly, Christian theology exists withinthe context of a specific history tied to a particular people. In contrast to many other movements,however, the Christian theological task claims as one of its primary strengths its own historicalcontingency on the people called Church from which the alternative politic of Jesus Christ is being made manifest.The overarching scheme of critical social/political theory as primarily an intellectualmovement can be generally defined as the developing of a theory of society, history, and humanfaculty, which moves towards the emancipation of humanity from the constraints that bind andoppress in a systematic fashion that is intrinsic to the nature of the societal system, as it thenexists.
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Such an aim towards liberation is seen beyond German critical theory in the French postmoderns such as Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Foucault with their different attacks uponcommonly held societal presuppositions. As this emancipatory task unfolds into the various
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Terminology specifically utilizing variations of the concept of emancipation and political critique withregard to theological language may be seen in such works as:
Jürgen Moltmann,
Theology of Hope: On TheGround And The Implications Of A Christian Eschatology
(
Minneapolis : Fortress Press, 1993), as well as in theanalysis of Moltmann¶s political theology in comparison/contrast to the aptly labled ³theological politics´ found inthe work of Stanley Hauerwas in: Arne Rasmusson,
The Church as Polis: From Political Theology to Theological  Politics as Exemplified by Jürgen Moltmann and Stanley Hauerwas
 
(N
otre Dame: University of 
 N
otre Dame Press,1995). See also Gary Simpson¶s analysis of Paul Tillich in: Gary M. Simpson,
Critical Social Theory: Prophetic Reason, Civil Society, and Christian Imagination
(
Minneapolis : Fortress Press, 2002) in which he explores therelationship of the Frankfurt School critical theorists and Tillich with regard to Tillich¶s theological works.
 
 
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discussions and works of the critical theorists it becomes apparent that the subverting of statusquo political and social structuring requires not only an ideological framework from which tolaunch a subversive proposal, but a set of normative contents that may serve as the overarchingsubstantive essence from which the critique must draw from. In other words, a critical theory thatwould effect real-time political and societal change must account for the ³whence´ of the critique by way of the critical proposal illustrating the coherent normative substance that givesmotivation and direction. Such necessity for coherent consistency proves to be an issue not easilyresolved by the secular theorists such as Horkheimer, Foucault, nor even Habermas with histheory of communicative action, which specifically attempts to layout such a normativeframework.
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Such use of the language of ³essence´ seems an anomaly in the critical politicaldiscourse given the postmetaphysical nature of much of the work in the last sixty years.However, this negation of the metaphysical nature of political discourse must be questioned andsubverted in order to bring about a coherent framework from which authoritative critical speechmay occur. From this assent to the reality of the contemporary situation, the Christian theologianis poised to undertake this task of critical witness with direct discussion and embodiment of thedivine Trinitarian reality. Such an embodiment, both confessed and participated in through theChurch¶s praxis of worship, is the ultimate lived differend of contrast with the secular realm, andmay be identified under the traditional Christian idea of ³witness´.Framing the Contextual Issues: Focus on Habermas¶ Critique and Theological Contingency
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For Habermas¶ theory see: Jürgen Habermas,
The Theory of Communicative Action: Reason And The Rationalizatin Of Society
, trans. Thomas McCarthy, Vol. 1
(
Boston : Beacon Press , 1984). What is most strikingabout Habermas¶s thought is not only the impressive system he attempts to develop in regard to an idealized public-sphere dialogue, but rather how his critiques of other theorists seem to rebound back upon his own. This rebounidngcomes as a result, at least from the theological perspective, of his lack of acounting for the metaphycial realm interms of human and divine ontological relations in favor of a proposal centering on the given necessity for a reason-centered political discourse. This requires an appeal to a public space of communication in society by which various peoples with differing ideologies and systems of thought are able to engage through the communicative processwhich is in part, reason itself.
 
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The particular issue of the ³whence´ or the ³from what´ is perhaps the largest critique byHabermas in general upon those such as Horkheimer, Adorno, and especially the latter Foucaultwith his borrowing a notion of subject-centered power that leads his entire project into aporiasand irresolvable conflict with itself in its genealogical phase.
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Especially helpful to thetheological claims of necessary contingency and participation is this analysis of Foucault byHabermas. Habermas¶ critical assessment indirectly exposes the problems of the attemptedemancipation from the subject-object dichotomy. Such a project, Habermas rightly showsdevolves into inevitable contingency upon concepts originating from the original framework inthe first place.
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It is this borrowing of the very conceptual framework that he seeks to critique,which forces Foucault to fall back upon a conception of power as the singular normativemotivation for most phenomena in the political and societal arenas. This same issue again comesinto focus in Habermas¶ reflections upon Horkheimer¶s usage of vague theological categories inhis remark that, ³to seek to salvage an unconditional meaning without God is a futileundertaking´.
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 The notion of real-time contingency must then be addressed and incorporated as a part of the theo-political task for it to have any critical substance. Indeed, the language of emancipationmust be questioned under the inquisitional concept of historical contingency upon communitiesof individuals with ³individual´ being defined not upon a dualism borne in the enlightenment, but as understood in the context of theological metaphysics. Specifically, with regard to virtue
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Jürgen Habermas,
The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity
(
Cambridge : The MIT Press, 1990). 274-275
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Ibid. 274. Habermas notes with regard to Foucault¶s project of genealogy, ³Foucault has forced together theidealist idea of transcendental synthesis with the presuppositions of an empiricist ontology. This approach cannotlead to a way out of the philosophy of the subject, because the concept of power that is supposed to provide acommon denominator for the contrary semantic components has been taken from the repertoire of the philosophy of the subject itself´.
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Jürgen Habermas,
 Religion and Rationality: Essays on Reason, God, and Modernity
, ed. Eduardo Mendieta
(
Cambridge : The MIT Press , 2002). 95-108
 

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