Political theology

Almost everyone writing on the tyranny of the majority realizes that in democratic thought the ‘people’ are treated at the same level of abstraction as God in theology. The structural analogy between political and theological concepts was called ‘political theology’ by Carl Schmitt. In an absolute monarchy, the sovereign is treated like a political god; in a democracy, “the people hover over the entire political life of the state, just as God does above the world, as the cause and the end of all things, as the point from which everything emanates and to which everything returns.” (Carl Schmitt: Political Theology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985, p. 49)

Similar concepts

Civil religion – the dogmas and rituals of the state which unite its citizens (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Robert Bellah).

Political religion – the ideology and symbolism of certain totalitarian systems (Eric Voegelin, Nikolai Berdyaev, Raymond Aron, Emilio Gentile, Rainer Bucher).

Migrations of the holy – the nation-state as an object of worship (John Bossy, William T. Cavanaugh, Mika Luoma-aho).

Economic religion – schools of economics as religious denominations (Robert H. Nelson); the market as God (Adam Smith, Harvey Cox); or money as a theological concept (Philip Goodchild).

Ecological or environmental religion (Robert H. Nelson).

Selected bibliography

Aron, Raymond 1944: L’avenir des religions seculiéres. La France Libre VIII/45: 210–217 and VIII/46: 269−277.

Bellah, Robert: Civil Religion in America. Daedalus 96/1 (1967): 1–21.

Berdyaev, Nikolai: The Russian Revolution. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961 [1931].

Bossy, John: Christianity in the West 1400−1700. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Bucher, Rainer 2011: Hitler’s Theology: Religious Space, Theory and Practice. New York: Continuum, 2011.

Cavanaugh, William T.: Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political Meaning of the Church. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.

Cox, Harvey: The Market as God. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016.

Gentile, Emilio: The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996.

Goodchild, Philip: Theology of Money. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Luoma-aho, Mika: God and International Relations: Christian Theology and World Politics. New York: Continuum, 2012.

Nelson, Robert H.: Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.

Nelson, Robert H.: The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001.

Riley, Patrick: The General Will Before Rousseau: The Transformation of the Divine into the Civic. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Rousseau, Jean-Jacques: The Social Contract and the First and Second Discourses. Edited by Susan Dunn. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

Schmitt, Carl: Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. Translated by George Schwab. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1985.

Smith, Adam: An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977.

Voegelin, Eric: The Political Religions. In The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin. Volume 5: Modernity without Restraint. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000, 19-73.

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