Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology
Publication Year: 2013
Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology provides the first broad encounter between modern Jewish thought and recent developments in political theology. In opposition to impetuous associations of Judaism and liberalism and charges that Judaism cannot engender a universal political order, the essays in this volume propose a new and richly detailed engagement between Judaism and the political. The vexed status of liberalism in Jewish thought and Judaism in political theology is interrogated with recourse to thinking from across the Continental tradition.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright
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This volume has its origins in Randi Rashkover’s desire in 2008 to put forth a definitive response from the field of modern Jewish philosophy and thought to the resurgence of interest in the humanities in Carl Schmitt and political theology. Neither of us expected the outpouring of interest from this book’s contributors and from other scholars who were unable to contribute. Such cohesion and...
Randi Rashkover, Martin Kavka
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One might suspect that there would be little left to question about Jews’ relation to the political sphere. The stereotype, at least in the United States, that Jews are overwhelmingly liberal was confirmed by the 2008 and 2012 elections, which saw Hebrew-language buttons in support of Barack Obama’s candidacy and greater support for Obama among Jews than among any other ethnic group...
Part 1. Judaism and Liberalism
1. Spinoza and the Possibility Condition of Modern Judaism
Jerome E. Copulsky
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In the so-called “autobiographical” preface to the 1965 English translation of his Spinoza’s Critique of Religion (originally published in German in 1930), Leo Strauss described the intellectual journey that led him to his research on Benedict Spinoza and to the composition of that book.1 Strauss wrote at the beginning of that text that he “found himself”—a young Jewish intellectual in Weimar...
2. "Plato Prophesied the Revelation": The Philosophico-Political Theology of Strauss's Philosophy and Law and the Guidance of Hermann Cohen
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In his early book Philosophy and Law (1935) and related works, Leo Strauss made a constitutive contribution to exploring the connections between Judaism and the complex of issues that can be summarized under the heading “political theology.” In this book, Strauss presents medieval Jewish and Islamic thought (or the thought of certain figures within those interlinked traditions) as...
3. What Do the Dead Deserve? Toward a Critique of Jewish "Political Theology"
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This volume walks a fine ethical line. Its pretext is not political theology in the broad sense, denoting how religious concepts and political realities intersect and legitimate (or delegitimate) one another. Rather, it stems from a distinct historical occasion, the rise in the contemporary West—scratching its head at the failure of liberal democracy to achieve the end of history—of “political theology” in...
4. The Zionism of Hannah Arendt: 1941–1948
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For more than two decades Hannah Arendt was engaged with aspects of Jewish thought and culture that would not be unfamiliar to Jewish studies today. Her writings from the late 1920s into the mid-1930s concerned German-Jewish intellectual history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. She worked with the Zionist movement in France to help youth immigration to Palestine in the...
Part 2. Messianism, Miracle, and Power
5. Power and Israel in Martin Buber's Critique of Carl Schmitt's Political Theology
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“Can political success be attained through religious deed?” asks Martin Buber in his 1930 essay, “Gandhi, Politics, and Us.”1 Buber’s answer is complex and subtle. Religion and politics, he suggests, are distinguishable. Politics is a means and a measure of achievement, whereas religion is a guide and a direction for possibility. However, the cautious and tentative alliance of politics and religion...
6. The Political Theology of Ethical Monotheism
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One of the most significant trends in European philosophy since its theological turn in the 1980s is a debate over the nature of messianism and, by extension, over the relationship between philosophy and Western scriptural traditions. This is especially apparent in Giorgio Agamben’s criticism of Jacques Derrida’s later writings. In calling deconstruction a “thwarted messianism,”1 Agamben implies...
7. The Miraculous Birth of the Given: Reflections on Hannah Arendt and Franz Rosenzweig
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In his Political Theology Carl Schmitt famously claimed that all significant political concepts are reinhabitations of theological concepts and that the power of the sovereign to declare a state of exception (that is, to interrupt and suspend the order of formal legality) was like a “miracle” as “the power of real life breaks through the crust of a mechanism that has become torpid by...
Part 3. Ethics, Law, and the Universal
8. Bad Jews, Authentic Jews, Figural Jews: Badiou and the Politics of Exemplarity
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Is it stating the obvious to point out that renewed interest in Saint Paul has everything to do with Judaism? Certainly recent biblical historians and scholars of religion have successfully shown how much Paul was himself shaped by Jewish codes and modes of thought.1 But have we yet fully taken into account the fact that contemporary philosophical interest in Paul, particularly in Alain Badiou’s...
9. The Patient Political Gesture: Law, Liberalism, and Talmud
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Veering overtly into religion after 9/11, recent critical theory steers further and further from “Judaism.” The fact that this discourse and its contributors have made almost no impact upon Jewish thought before this publication stands in stark contrast to the saturation by Jewish categories of postmodern theory in the 1970s and 1980s, which in turn inundated Jewish...
Part 4. The Mosaic Distinction
10. Reason within the Bounds of Religion: Assmann, Cohen, and the Possibilities of Monotheism
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Recent years have witnessed many actions, often violent and xenophobic, explicitly rooted in monotheistic intolerance. Perhaps, then, it should not be surprising that many secular-minded critics view monotheistic religions as not much more than intractable problems for democratic societies. Indeed, for such critics, the respective ages and histories of these traditions are not to be...
11. The Impossibility of the Prohibition of Images: Idolatry in Adorno, Levinas, and Schoenberg
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There is, in recent decades, a growing shared awareness that the term “idolatry” is outdated and intolerant and that we ought to abandon its use. The argument, essentially, is that the word has objective value or third-person meaning only as an extension and reification of its origin in the vocative: that while the term points to a wide variety of behaviors, it begins always in the accusation...
12. From Distortion to Displacement: Freud and the Mosaic Distinction
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In one of his seminars, Jacques Lacan asks, “[H]ow, why did Freud need Moses?”1 In this chapter, I argue that Moses and Monotheism, Freud’s “historical novel” of trauma, repression, and recurrence, represents his most serious engagement with religious tradition. But unlike Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of eternal recurrence or Jan Assmann’s “Mosaic distinction,” Freud’s account chooses...
13. Monotheism as a Political Problem: The Critique of Political Theology out of the Sources of Judaism
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Erik Peterson’s Der Monotheismus als Politisches Problem (Monotheism as a Political Problem) was published in 1935. It is a short book, one hundred pages of text and fifty-eight pages of notes. It is deliberately allusive, coding in Latin quotations from Augustine, as we will later note, some of its most pointed criticisms of its intended target, the jurist and “political theologian” Carl Schmitt. Schmitt...
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Page Count: 366
Illustrations: 5 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2013