Political Theology Today A forum for interdisciplinary and interreligious dialogue

All posts by Roland Boer

Australian parliament

Religion and Political Thought: Introduction

Over the last few years, we have been engaged in an Australian project called ‘Religion and Political Thought’ – itself part of an international project known as ‘Religion and Radicalism’. Funded by the Australian Research Council, it seeks to do nothing less than kick-start an Australian tradition of political philosophy in relation to religion and theology. Our aims may be high, but we realise that it is very much a small beginning to what we hope will foster further debate and research.

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friedrich engels

Revolutionary Christianity: Friedrich Engels and the Aufhebung of Religion

Friedrich Engels is not often given due credit for his distinct contributions to the socialist tradition, let alone to biblical and theological debates. This neglect is as much the case in Western Marxism as it is in China, where I work for a good part of each year. In order to make a small contribution to rehabilitating Engels, I would like to explore what may be called his own Aufhebung of religion….

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qing dynasty

The Taiping Heavenly Kingdom: Revolutionary Christianity Arrives in China

Is the Taiping Revolution (1850-1864) the moment when the revolutionary Christian tradition arrives in China? I suggest that it is precisely such a moment, for a number of reasons. These include a radical reinterpretation of the Bible, a thorough challenge to the underlying structures of existing power, a communistic way of life, and the development of a distinctly new religious form.

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Marx1867

The Fetish: Marx and the Aufhebung of Religion

For Marx, the Aufhebung of religion – that is, the end and transformation of religion – takes place with an unexpected idea. This is the fetish (and not opium as one might expect). In Marx’s hands, the core meaning of the fetish is a transferral of properties and power. Human beings transfer properties to an object, which then seems to gain life, power and the ability to affect those human beings.

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Masaccio_-_The_Expulsion_from_the_Garden_of_Eden_(detail)_-_WGA14180

Marx on Genesis 3

In the first volume of Capital, Marx writes: ‘Englishmen, always well up in the Bible, knew well enough that man, unless by elective grace a capitalist, or landlord, or sinecurist, is commanded to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, but they did not know that he had to eat daily in his bread a certain quantity of human perspiration mixed with the discharge of abscesses, cobwebs, dead black-beetles, and putrid German yeast, without counting alum, sand, and other agreeable mineral ingredients’.

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reform:revolution

Nudging: Can Reform Make a Better Society? A Response to Charles Mathewes and Christina McRorie (by Roland Boer)

. . . It all sounds so beneficial, benignly urging us towards a better life and perhaps even a better society. The problems with ‘nudging’, however, are significant, although I restrict myself to the key ones: it misses the dialectic of nature and nurture; it misses the very conditions under which nudging take place; and it lacks a proper sense of the role of reform.

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foucault

Foucault’s Care

Foucault’s emphasis on the ‘care of the self’ is usually hailed as a significant challenge to the understanding of ethics. With the tendency of ethics to focus on the ‘other’ and how one relates to that other, the turn to consider the construction of the subject seems to be radical. This was also Foucault’s answer to the perennial problems of ethics . . .

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Marx and Engels

100 Years of Political Theology: a Marxist Perspective

I would like to change direction a little in this reflection on one hundred years of political theology. My interest for some time has been the complex intersections – or translations – that take place between Marxism and religion. I find unpersuasive the assertion that Marxism is a secularised or pseudo-religion, a political movement that relies upon a religious framework in order to develop its positions. This is to fall into the double-trap of a secularisation narrative and making theology an absolute and thereby the source of all modern political thought.

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Adam Smith

Adam Smith, Storyteller

Adam Smith’s skill was as a storyteller of the first order. It takes one a while to realize where his appeal lies. As many have noted, his Wealth of Nations is rambling, polemical, and rather cavalier with evidence. All this sits rather strangely with the popularity of his writing, both then and now. How to understand that appeal? We suggest it may be found not in any skill at constructing careful and detailed argument, but in his ability to tell stories.

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Thomas_Robert_Malthus

Thomas Malthus and the Doctrine of Evil

The original sin of man is the torpor and corruption of the chaotic matter in which he may be said to be born.

The Reverend Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) is best known for An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). Here this classical economist argues that human beings are caught between two drives, lust and hunger – or, being the polite reverend that he was, population and subsistence.

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