“The Theological Aspirations of Secular Politics”

This is an interesting short review of a new book by Simon Critchley.  Here’s a paragraph which was particularly eye-catching (h/t Sam Bray):

The thinker who has done most to expose the theological aspirations of secular politics, and especially its infatuation with some version of providential design, is John Gray. Like Critchley, Gray thinks of modern politics as “a chapter in the history of religion”. What begins with the millenarian thinking of the Hebrew scriptures finds its expression in the bloody utopianism of the Jacobins, the Nazis and Stalin. Here, the book of Revelation is the surprising template for modern political action. “What is essential to neoliberal millenarian thinking is the consolidation of the idea of good through the identification of evil, where the Antichrist keeps assuming different masks: Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Kim Jong-il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and so on,” Critchley writes. For Gray, the reason to expose the theological underpinnings of political discourse is to exorcise its power. Only tragic pessimism can free us from the violence of the theologian’s ambition. But there are no votes in tragic pessimism. So the bloodshed continues.

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