Kahn has identified an ideal—the sacrificial ideal of freedom—that exists both as an ideal and at times in practice. And while the U.S. is certainly his main subject, he describes an ideal of freedom that has purchase well beyond American borders. Perhaps this freedom is what we’ve seen evoked by some of the protesters in the Middle East and North Africa in recent months. And Kahn is right to draw our attention to the claim that there is something miraculous in the plausible appearance of “the people.” Conjuring the people by giving up one’s self seems to represent just the kind of freedom and popular sovereignty that Kahn has in mind. The challenge for those who accept Kahn’s ideal is how to bring the individual and the conjured popular sovereign into a sufficient degree of unity with the apparatus of government, for such is the condition of more lasting freedom. These are the directions in which Kahn pushes us, and we need not think that he is correct on a factual or phenomenological level all of the time in order to examine this ideal, to ask when and how it emerges, and to see it as something astounding and “theological.”Read the rest of The political theology of freedom and unfreedom.
Mateo Taussig-Rubbo is Associate Professor of Law at SUNY Buffalo. He is co-editor, with Winnifred Fallers Sullivan and Robert Yelle, of After Secular Law (Stanford University Press, 2011) and author of numerous articles and book chapters, including: "Outsourcing Sacrifice: The Labor of Private Military Contractors," Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 21, no. 1 (2009): 103-68; and "Pirate Trials, the International Criminal Court and Mob Justice: Reflections on Postcolonial Sovereignty in Kenya," Humanity 1, no. 2 (2011): 51-74. Taussig-Rubbo holds a J.D. from Yale University and a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago.