Religion and Civil Society

Political Theology

Under political theology in a wide sense we understand the study of the transferences of meanings, narratives and contests that occur between religious and political life, especially the use of sacred narratives, images, motifs and liturgical forms. Carl Schmitt created the modern notion of political theology in 1922. He proposes a field of research in which, for a correct understanding of juridical or political concepts with their vast significance in modern contexts, we need to establish systematic and methodological analogies between the political sphere and the religious one. Thus configured and disseminated academically, this concept has been used profusely by scholars as a basis for their studies on the transferences between the secular and the spiritual throughout history. The methodology of political theology has been duly analyzed from the perspective of political philosophy, but was soon also taken up by theologians such as Henri de Lubac and historians such as Ernst Kantorowicz, along with art and law historians. Nowadays we can consider political theology as a critical discourse in the humanities in order to organize a research field.

The method, according to which we are leading our research, has three main aspects: (1) That the metaphysical image of the world forged by an epoch has the same structure as the form of political organization that the world immediately understands to be appropriate. (2) That there are multifarious transferences of meanings between the theological and religious sphere as well as the political and institutional, in both senses. (3) This kind of transference allows the use of the religion in order to legitimate politics.

This approach, leaving proof of the mentioned transferences, helps to rethink the secularization thesis. Our project critically engages one of the great narratives of modernity that retains a significant hold over contemporary thinkers. That is a narrative built by the philosophy of history –well represented by Max Weber, Leo Strauss, Karl Löwith and Hans Blumenberg in its different nuances- that supposes that the development of history leads inexorably to a progressive vanishing of religion from every place in society –beginning from the public sphere- and from the theoretical or practical disciplines. This hypothesis has functioned as a norm for political action since the nineteenth century, which has tended to consign religion to a violent and uncivilized past.  But, does history testify such a lineal process? Is it true that religion is as such a source of violence or intolerance? Could philosophical reason have complete autonomy from religious experience?

In this field we are exploring three concrete aspects:

1. Symbolic transferences of meaning between the political and the theological: ceremonies, oaths, emblems in Late Medieval Iberia

2. The “turn to religion” in contemporary philosophy

3. The violence against the Other in Quran in a historical critical deradicalizing perspective

Main Researcher

Montserrat Herrero
Institute for Culture and Society

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