Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Social/Politics

The Faith of the Faithless: Simon Critchley Interview

With the publication of his new book The Faith of the Faithless, Jonny Gordon-Farleigh from STIR spoke to philosopher Simon Critchley about why a counterfactual faith is so important to modern politics, why it offers an “archive of possibilities” for those involved in political transformation, why there is still an obsession with “big men”, and what the the true political terrain is today.

STIR: It has been reasoned that the recent theological revival is because of a “theoretical deficit, not a theological need” (Alberto Toscano). Are there more reasons for this unexpected if not unusual upturn in interest in political theology than the catastrophic failure of the communist projects of the previous century?

Simon Critchley: The interest in political theology comes out of a dissatisfaction with liberalism. The notion of political theology as a category or term actually originates in Bakunin. So, it originates in Italian thought in the mid-nineteenth century and is also first used as an abusive term. And when Carl Schmitt picks it up in the 1920s he gives it a different valence but the object of attack for both Bakunin and Schmitt, on the left and on the right, is the same liberalism.

Periodising that, you have the aftermath of the collapse of the Warsaw pact and the Soviet Union, and the period in the early 90s when there is a lot of optimism about the potential within democracy for emancipatory energies that then quickly exhausts itself. Then, there is a return to the theological concerns at that moment, which isn’t so much a return to communist ideas as an attempt to find something at the level of the deep motivational structure of what it means to be a human self and what selves might be together. If you are interested in that question then the history of religious thought is really a place to look — maybe the place to look.

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