Simon During

Simon During is a research professor at the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland. His books include Foucault and Literature: Towards a Genealogy of Writing (Routledge, 1992), Patrick White (Oxford University Press, 1996), Modern Enchantments: The Cultural Power of Secular Magic (Harvard University Press, 2002), Exit Capitalism: Literary Culture, Theory and Post-Secular Modernity (Routledge, 2009), and Against Democracy: Literary Experience in the Era of Emancipations (Fordham University Press, 2012). He is also editor of the widely used textbook The Cultural Studies Reader, now in its third edition (Routledge, 1993, 1999, 2007). He is currently mainly working on a history of the relationship between Anglicanism and literature in Britain from 1600 to 1945.

Posts by Simon During:

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Is absolute secularity conceivable?

Is absolute secularity conceivable? The question arises from the paradoxical intuition that the secularization thesis is simultaneously both right and muddled. Perhaps the most fundamental problem with the broader secularization thesis (which I take to claim that, over the past half-millennium or so, Western society has undergone a systemic diminution of religious practice) is that it isn’t clear what the non-secular is. After all, it can be extended from those beliefs and practices that avowedly depend on religious revelation to those that affirm some form of transcendentalism, though they may make no room for God as such. But for a long time both radical atheists and Christian apologists have argued that what looks as if it is secular through and through may not, in fact, be secular at all.

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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Religion and state secularization

In discussing secularization, it has become conventional to note that the concept refers to various processes, of which three are particularly prominent. First, the gradual delegitimation of natural and revealed religion’s truth-claims in the face of rational critique. We can call this intellectual secularization. Second, the process by which some states have constitutionally disengaged from their citizens’ religious beliefs and institutions. We can call this state secularization. Third, the increase across society of knowledge, activities, values, tastes, and activities which lack religious content, as well as the extent to which, increasingly, people involve themselves with these non-religious forms. We can call this social secularization.

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Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Catholicism, conservatism, and antihumanist politics

Geroulanos’s central thesis is compelling but simple: French antihumanism, in its theoretical mode, was based on a radicalized “negative anthropology,” i.e., the idea that man is a negating animal, as articulated in a widespread rejection of neo-Kantianism, first by Heidegger and then passed on to French thinkers like Bataille and Blanchot, largely via Alexandre Kojève and his “end of history” argument. Instead of the homo absconditus that Ernst Bloch was to locate in Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann’s “Protestant anthropology,” we have here a “last man,” heir to those “negations” of the world named freedom, history, and individuality, whose historical realization reveals that humanness is ultimately based upon a relation to death. And to the degree that this antihumanism continues to order thinkers like de Man, Derrida, and Foucault, it has also shaped many Anglophone intellectuals of my generation. Geroulanos tells a story that thus illuminates us too.

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Monday, October 20th, 2008

Resistance, critique, religion

Justin Neuman’s stimulating last post encouraged me to reread the debate asking “Is Critique Secular?”from the beginning, and in doing so I began to wonder what would happen to the discussion if we added to it the notion of “resistance”.  By resistance I simply mean the refusal to accept the social system in which one lives.  I am partly inspired by Robert Bellah’s wonderful post, which makes the case that elements within several axial religions share a single impulse with Western theoria, namely renunciation thought precisely as (a practical and/or conceptual) departure from one’s inherited social condition.  For Bellah, renunciation typically becomes institutionalized and then carries out critique from a relatively autonomous social space, in a routinizing extension which, somewhat in Charles Taylor’s spirit, he thinks contains “explosive potentialities for good and for evil.”

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Monday, January 7th, 2008

What if?

It seems to me that Chris Nealon and Colin Jager are onto something important when they remind us that there exists a “left-secular structure of feeling” that too easily overlooks critique’s abiding relation to religion, and not least the history of Christian, progressive critique. They’re right too, I think, to suggest that this forgetting is in the interests both of the Western religious right and of Western defenders of the secular state and public sphere (e.g. those defenders of free speech against Islamic accusations of blasphemy whom Talal Asad discusses in his paper for the Berkeley seminar that inspired this series of posts). […]

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Friday, November 30th, 2007

The truth?

secular_age.jpgAs many here have noted, A Secular Age is a remarkable achievement. And it marks the culmination of a life’s work. As far as I’m aware, Charles Taylor’s argument first took shape in an essay he wrote forty years ago as a member of the Catholic New Left for the volume From Culture to Revolution (1968). At the time he was committed to an anti-marxist “radical socialism” […]

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Saturday, November 10th, 2007

The mundane against the secular

The research university has long been at the heart of European, and thence global, secularism—if we think of secularism as the progressive social/intellectual distantiation from supernaturalisms. The implications of this alignment press on us not least because it means that academic anti‐secularist arguments risk bad faith. […]

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