Traditionally, Western thought framed human life as evolving in a three-dimensional space: the economic, the political, and the philosophical. Nowadays, as in times past, this tradition sets its origins in classical Athens, a time when the happy and self-sufficient public life of politics and the solitary one of philosophy were nourishing on the surplus generated by the economy. The economy was confined to the private sphere of the household and excluded from the public sphere that was occupied by politics. The Origins of Neoliberalism: Modeling the Economy from Jesus to Foucault retells the history of the West following the less traversed economic side of the story by conducting a philological history that traces the meanings that were attached to the notion of oikonomia in Greek speaking antiquity. Doing so, the book offers a twist on the historical narrative of the present: it argues that the rise of the “economy of the mystery which from eternity has been hid in God who created all things” (Ephesians 3:9) in Greek-speaking Christianity of late antiquity plays a decisive role in this history. By reinserting this too-often ignored chapter, the book goes beyond closing a great gap in the histories of economic thought, philosophical inquiries, and political theory. As the research conducted in the book is of a genealogical nature, The Origins of Neoliberalism holds (and demonstrates) that recovering the mysteries of the economy in early Christianity is of great relevance for any critical engagement with neoliberalism, let alone overcoming it.
Posts Tagged ‘public sphere’
Raising issues central to post-secularism, Ryan Gillespie reviews three distinct recent works—Steven D. Smith’s The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, Terry Eagleton’s Reason, Faith and Revolution, and Jürgen Habermas’ Between Naturalism and Religion— in the International Journal of Communication.
As a lawyer, I appreciate the critical importance of historical inquiry to contemporary legal challenges; as a historian, I resist attempts to demand normative outcomes from historical research. Balancing these disparate commitments is no easy feat and the endeavor warrants restraint.
In The New Republic, Isaac Chotiner reviews Stefan Collini’s latest book, which asks what it means to give offense and to feel offended. It also explores how “offensive” speech ought to be dealt with in the public sphere—a recurring issue whenever liberals criticize, or try to figure out how to respond to criticism of, religious beliefs and practices.
El poder de la religión en la esfera pública, the Spanish language edition of The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, will be released late this month by Trotta Editorial.
In the SSRC’s Transformations of the Public Sphere essay forum, Seyla Benhabib considers the recent and ongoing uprisings in the Arab world as a novel hybridization of Muslim and modern politics, suggesting that it “is altogether possible that these young revolutionaries who stunned the world with their ingenuity, discipline, tenaciousness and courage will also teach us some new lessons about religion and the public square, democracy and faith . . . .”
The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics at NYU has recently launched States of Devotion, a trilingual blog serving as “an interactive forum for news, analysis and opinion-making about religion and politics in the Americas.”
It is illuminating to ponder the recent events in Cairo’s Midan al-Tahrir as we try to understand the relationship between space, power, belonging, and resistance, as well as the productive interplay between physical and virtual space. Communication technologies such as the Internet (especially the websites Facebook and Twitter) and mobile phones aided the organization and publicizing of the protests in Egypt. At the same time, the marches, rallies, and the demonstrations of millions of Egyptians have brought a sense of visibility and immediacy that other means of communication alone would not have been able to secure. As I write this piece, the strong link between virtual and physical space continues to be central to the making of publics that are seen, heard, and legitimized.
At the end of our last post (an extension of our discussions at the IWM Summer School in Cortona), we asked whether secularism and liberalism in fact always go together, as is often supposed. In our second round of Skype conversations, we began to address this question by discussing a related one: to what degree are liberalism and privatized religion necessary for democracy? This discussion was inspired by our IWM course on “Religion and Democracy,” taught by José Casanova and Marcin Krol, which drew on examples of democratic societies to examine the variety of roles that public religion and liberalism, respectively, play in enhancing or inhibiting democratic life.
Google’s attempt to bring its Street View service to Germany has met with strong opposition. Given the country’s history, the opposition feeds off many Germans’ wariness of encroachments upon their privacy—a wariness that Jeff Jarvis has called “something nearing a cultural obsession.” In this vein, a leading newspaper commented that “Google knows more about you and me than the KGB, Stasi or Gestapo ever dreamed of.” Not least among those opposing the Californian internet giant’s service are the German churches. Several Protestant churches have registered concerns, including the largest of the Landeskirchen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover.
Concluding a class trip to the Supreme Court, Maureen Rigo and her class from Wickenburg Christian Academy, Wickenburg, AZ, stopped to pray on the Oval Plaza in front of the Court steps. The Supreme Court police ushered the teacher and her class from the steps, having deemed their behavior unlawful—actions that bring to the fore questions of the religious neutrality of public space and the application of the First Amendment.
In Joseph Blankholm’s recent post, he wonders how to begin to understand (or even locate) the atheism of people who choose, politely, not to talk about religion. His example of Midwestern propriety is an apt one—for many people, religion is not acceptable public conversation. Blankholm’s question of how we get behind this polite façade is important, but his post also raised another significant aspect of writing and thinking about religion: the importance of place.
The popular push to ban the burqa in France lacks clear legality, reports The Associated Press.
CBC Radio’s daily program Ideas, hosted by Paul Kennedy, has run an extensive (14-part) series on “The Origins of the Modern Public,” with installments featuring, among others, Michael Warner and Craig Calhoun. The series traces the emergence of the modern public from the early modern period to the present.
For many Minnesotans, religion is a private matter that shouldn’t be talked about—not even among friends. For others, it hardly makes sense to think of religion as public or private because it seems so obviously embedded in both spheres. As someone who has to talk about religion a lot, two rough groups emerge for me: on the one hand, there are the public non-theists; and on the other, there are those who talk about religion, whether or not they are actually religious themselves.
In her essay on Salazar v. Buono, Winni Sullivan ponders why crosses present such a difficulty for the modern, secular nation-state, and she questions the degree to which religious myths and symbols have been supplanted by those of nationalism. “Has secularization failed?” she asks. Sullivan posits that religious symbols’ ability to connect the universal and the particular is at the root of their success. Yet the ambiguity of both the Mojave cross and the commentaries made by various judges in evaluating the case point to the layered religious and secular meanings of the symbol at that particular site and in U.S. society more generally. Perhaps a more expansive definition of civil religion can trace how the same symbol moves across “religious” and “secular” contexts, depending on the site, event, or time in which it is deployed. In Poland, for example, the cross is and is not religious, although it is always sacred. Indeed, this ambiguity, the ability to pivot in different directions, may help account for the cross’s social force.
Last week, the prime minister of Lower Saxony, a member of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), replaced several ministers in his cabinet. The new holder of the portfolio that includes social, health, and family policy, women’s affairs, and integration, is a 38-year-old woman called Aygül Özkan, also a Christian Democrat. She is not only the first minister of Turkish descent to serve in a German state government, but also the first Muslim to hold an executive office at this level in Germany. What does the reaction to her first public statements reveal about the nature of German secularism?
In The Power of Religion in the Public Sphere, due out spring 2011 from Columbia University Press and the SSRC, Judith Butler, Jürgen Habermas, Charles Taylor, and Cornel West interrogate the specificity of religious and secular reasons, dispositions, and ethical orientations in relation to democratic politics, each taking up a different strand of the complex intertwinement of religion and the public sphere in the contemporary world.
In 2008, roughly 15 percent of Americans told telephone surveyors with the American Religious Identification Survey that they had no religious preference, were atheist, agnostic, secular, or humanist….Whether or not we want to feed these findings back into a very long-running debate about sociology’s secularization thesis, many of us will feel compelled to ask what this trend means for American public life. We are trained to ask the question because we are so used to thinking in Tocquevillian terms about religion’s relation to democracy. For that reason alone, it is worth taking a little time to clarify what the oft-quoted French traveler, diarist and social thinker Alexis de Tocqueville actually did say about American religion and its public consequences, so we can better decide what, if anything, in the Tocquevillian heritage helps us grapple with these findings.