Monday, January 28, 2008

CFP: Anti-Liberalism and Political Theology

Trilingual Symposium (English, German, French)
Anti-Liberalism and Political Theology
Antiliberalismus und politische Theologie
Antilibéralisme et théologie politique

Third Annual International Symposium of the Sussex Centre for the Individual and Society (SCIS), at Sciences Po/The Institute for Political Studies (IEP) (tbc) in Paris, France, 9-11 July 2008

The second in a planned series of three events on political theology, this Symposium follows on from the highly successful SCIS Symposium, "The Resurgence of Political Theology," held in September 2007 in Pisa, Italy (parallel to the SCIS-organised political theology section in the General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research) and precedes a workshop, "Political Theology and Failure of Democratization" (title tbc), to be held at the Sixth Annual Conference "Workshops in Political Theory" in September 2009 in Manchester, England.

Papers given at the 2008 Symposium in Paris will automatically be considered for inclusion in an edited volume on "Anti-Liberalism and Political Theology," which the editors of a series with Continuum have already expressed an interest in publishing. (Papers on the topic submitted by authors unable to attend the Symposium are also welcome and will be considered for inclusion in the volume on a case by case basis.)

Paper proposals (in English, German or French) are invited on any aspect of the significance of anti-liberalism in the intellectual history and historical actuality of political theology as well as on contemporary expressions of anti-liberal tendencies in political theologies.

The twenty-first century has been called "the age of political theology." Political theology can as easily express itself as theology-cum-political thought, theology-cum-politics, or politics or social and political thought using theology for argument's sake. Prominent examples are radical Islam, Latin American "liberation theology," African "black theology," religious Zionism, and the Christian right in the United States. A recent contribution from within the discipline of Political Science, "Comparative Political Theology" (Kofmel, 2007), proposes to gain valuable insights into the theoretical foundations of the interplay between religion and politics by comparing political theologies to each other across religious and cultural boundaries. As a result of such study, it has been suggested that the single most important factor underlying all political theologies is anti-liberalism. The particular expression of anti-liberalism is of course always contextualized. The argument has been extended to imply that political theology's being anti-liberal means that it is at least potentially anti-democratic too.

Post 1989 and, with increased urgency, post 2001, political theology has come to reappraise the value of Christianity for a politico-theological project that could at once sustain or replace discredited Marxism, challenge liberalism for political hegemony, and hold its own opposite radical Islam. Many contributors to this new debate seem particularly drawn to Carl Schmitt's straight-forward "friend/enemy" distinction (elaborated in his 1932 essay, The Concept of the Political). Surprisingly, radical Islam shares many of the concerns of Christian political theologies, such as an opposition to "neo-colonialism" and, more recently, "neo-liberalism" and "globalization." Radical Islam claims that in Islam theology cannot be separated from or replaced by politics and is hostile to the spread of liberal western values such as secularization, capitalism and democracy. Although radical Islam need not be violent, militants use arguments of radical Islam to justify acts of terrorism and political theology has thus become an international security concern. We also cannot understand the failure of democratization (for example in Iraq, Pakistan and Zimbabwe) - and increasingly of western democracy - without understanding modes of anti-democratic thinking and unless we understand political theology (in all religions) as a major source of anti-liberal (and thus inherently anti-parliamentarian, anti-capitalist and anti-democratic) thought.

For those interested to learn more: Two panels on "Comparative Political Theology" will be part of the section, "Religion, Globalization and Security," at the Second Global International Studies Conference of the World International Studies Committee (WISC), taking place at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, 23-26 July 2008.

Please send proposals for papers to be given at the 2008 SCIS Symposium in Paris and to be considered for inclusion in the edited volume to: or by 29 February 2008.