Carl Schmitt and the Nineteenth-Century Catholic Reaction on Original Sin

Carl Schmitt is frequently assumed to have primarily been a Catholic intellectual, or Christian political theologian, at least until becoming alienated from the Church in the mid-1920’s. The jurist’s book Political Theology is quite logically a main source of evidence for this standard interpretation of Schmitt’s intellectual biography. However, an assumption of Schmitt’s Catholic, or even simply Christian, bona fides serves more as a distraction in understanding the origins and contours of his early thought. This mistaken narrative hides the degree to which Schmitt’s brand of secular and proto-Hobbesian decisionism is contrary to the thought of his claimed forebears among nineteenth-century counter-revolutionary Catholic theorists.

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Oikonomia Leaves Home: Theology, Politics, and Governance in the History of the West

Is there any genealogical connection between Christian oikonomia and modern political economy? Originally the turning of polity into household and interpersonal “pastoral” rule was not sinister but an advance. Likewise the Christian doctrines of Trinity and Incarnation resolved rather than sustained aporias of the reserved versus the economizing deity. However, later developments with the Franciscans, Palamites, and Jansenists effectively undid this resolution, producing a new “gnostic” duality. Economic rule was now sundered from ethics in a fallen world seen as utterly depraved. The heterodox discourse and practice of political economy resulted.

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Telos 175 (Summer 2016): Political Theory, Political Theology

Critical theory inherited the mission of philosophy to know the world and to pursue the good life. Careful examination should shed light on the cosmos and our place within it and contribute to a beneficial ordering of human concerns, when wisdom informs governance. Yet that aspiration to know the world encountered the limits of intelligibility, beyond which reason could not proceed. Meanwhile, the efforts to remake the world in the spirit of reason elicited processes of rationalization, as deleterious to the world around us, the natural environment, as to the world within us, the ongoing cultural crisis of modernity and its social corollaries. That is Horkheimer and Adorno’s dialectic of enlightenment at the foundation of the critical theoretical tradition that continues to provide a framework with which to articulate a critique of the contemporary in its many heterogeneous facets: the disruption of all forms of solidarity, the pressures on family structures, the erosion of educational opportunities, the growing gap between rich and poor. Add to this the ominous shifts in the international order, including the breakdown of state structures from North Africa through the Middle East, the strains on the European Union, and the return of a repressive semi-dictatorship in Russia, while—at this point in the presidential election season—the United States seems to be tumbling dangerously toward Weimar conditions.

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Michael Ley on the Suicide of the West: The Islamization of Europe

In his account of the impact of Islam on Europe, Michael Ley pulls no punches, especially for all those readers, like the present reviewer, who still hope that a Muslim humanism and not Islamist terrorism will become the primary social movement in global Islam in the years to come. In a nutshell, Ley’s main theses are the following: Orthodox and radical Islam are the scourge of humanity. Ley calls Sharia Islam “the worst danger for democracy and human rights in the 21st Century.” Only an Islam without Sharia is compatible with human rights. Yet that is a vision for the future; current reality, according to Ley, is different. The Islamization of Europe is, according to Ley, the most visible change in most European societies. While liberal and educated citizens consider the increasing influence of conservative and radical Islam with great concern and regard the future of the continent as rather bleak, their so-called progressive opponents interpret the ongoing Islamization as a cultural enrichment that contributes to the historical overcoming of the obsolete nation-state. Ley goes as far as to say that today the pioneers of radical post-national Europe would prefer to abolish all symbols of national identity: indigenous Europeans should waive all national, cultural, religious, and ultimately also traditional sexual identities.

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The Development of the International Community, Human Personality, and the Question of Universal History in the Thought of Luigi Sturzo

Luigi Sturzo (1871–1959) was an Italian priest, social reformer and the founder in 1919 of the Popular Party that later became the Christian Democratic Party, and social theorist who wrote extensively about history during the last century. Regarding history, Sturzo’s great contribution is his account of the formation and development of the “International Community” as one of the concrete forms of human society subject to its general laws. Sturzo locates the roots of this concept in the Christian revelation of human equality before God and the subsequent religious duty to love one’s neighbor in a manner that transcends the traditional boundaries of the ancient world. Thus the social values of the pre-Christian world are inverted, and human personality assumes the mantle previously held by the social and ethnic bonds of that era.

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The Progress and Future of Radical Orthodoxy

Mention “Radical Orthodoxy” in a room of people who are either quite intimately or only remotely acquainted with contemporary theology, and one surely will receive equal parts of praise and scorn. Whether it is being praised or scorned, however, it is plain that Radical Orthodoxy has worked its way deep into the fabric of contemporary theological discourse. Since the publication of John Milbank’s Theology and Social Theory in 1992, Catherine Pickstock’s After Writing in 1997, and Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, edited by Milbank, Pickstock, and Graham Ward in 1998, the Radical Orthodoxy movement has done what any explosively innovative intellectual movement will do after the hype settles down: mature or wither away.

In their article “What is Radical Orthodoxy?” (Telos 123, Spring 2002), John Hughes and Matthew Bullimore map out, in a short space and yet with crisp detail, the main themes in the Radical Orthodoxy project. For those familiar with the movement, their points will not come as a shock: that a deep metaphysical violence underlies modernity, political liberalism, and capitalism; that the philosophical and theological dualisms of modernity must be named and then overcome with the aid of both premodern and postmodern thought; and that in the face of proliferating violence it is Christian orthodoxy—in line with Aquinas, Boethius, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, and Iamblichean Neo-Platonism—that presents truly “radical” alternatives to the prevailing political, philosophical, and theological orders.

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