Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
John Caputo has a lengthy (93 pages!) new article in the Spring 2011 issue of JCRT (11.2) called "The return of anti-religion: from radical atheism to radical theology." Some of you Meillassoux fans might be a bit insulted! From the intro:
"Postmodern theology has come of age. It now has its own counter-movement, a new generation of philosophers marching under the flag of materialism, realism, and anti-religion who complain that the theologians are back at their old trick of appropriating attempts to kill off religion in order to make religion stronger.
Martin Hägglund‘s Radical Atheism [RA] is a closely argued contribution to the recent debate that fits hand in glove with the new counter-movement. His book has reinvented Derrida for the younger generation of restless realists and comes as a timely refutation of any attempt to reduce Derrida to an anti-realist or anti-materialist. The book is especially welcome in the light of Meillassoux‘s caricature of correlationism, which treats continental philosophers from Kant on as ―creationists. (That is not an exaggeration. I understand the need to kill the father, but one ought at least to make some sense when asked for the motive for the murder. Besides, such caricatures invite an obvious counter-argument: if treating Derrida and Foucault as creationists is where the new realism leads, then so much the worse for the new realism!)
In my view it [RA] presents a certain deconstruction, and a certain logic of deconstruction, but in an abridged edition of Derrida cut to fit the new materialism, all scrubbed up and sanitized, nothing written in the margins, deconstruction as logic not écriture. I wish it well. But in my view not only is the unabridged edition of deconstruction considerably more interesting it also provides the basis for a criticism of religion from within, rather than mounting a frontal attack from without that tries to hammer religion senseless. In deconstruction religion is more than one, and that opens up a possibility never considered in RA, what we might call a religious materialism, a religion without the immaterialism of two-worlds Augustinianism, another Augustine and another religion, which is in fact the unedited view of Jacques Derrida. Interestingly, Meillassoux himself tried his hand at propounding something of a religious materialism, one that even sounds a bit like the specter of a coming god in Derrida, but with ridiculous results (a fanciful version of eternal recurrence). His position is especially ridiculous when viewed against the subtle and careful analysis of a certain faith and a certain religion and a certain à venir that Derrida provides, an analysis that is unfortunately completely suppressed in Hägglund‘s abridged edition of deconstruction."
This is mixed material. I strongly agree with the need to adopt a regenerative and inclusive view of theology and even "God" -- one which takes those notions out of both traditional and anti-traditional hands. However the privately stimulating practice of trying to envision a political order extending from New Testament moral injunctions and spiritual vision is very ambiguous. Partly it is obviously desirable to envision a society in which the original Christian ethics of immanent salvation and trans-sectarian embrace are standardized. Yet the simplified invisible-parental-love God, the hypervaluation of the "least among us", etc. are not necessarily as socially productive as the sentimentally first appear? And "loving one's enemies" is not, in the Gospel, an alternative to having enemies -- but rather a condition on the basis of which Christ "brings a sword". The policing and military security of civilization cannot be predicated upon such personally expansive feelings as non-retribution.
Though it is hard to imagine a politics worse than the one commonly associated with sociopathic individuals and toxic organizations who advertize themselves as being "conservative" and/or "pro-Jesus".
To think theology otherwise, to think God otherwise, is needed -- I claim. Yet this otherwise thinking is not necessarily to think it as weak, powerless, alternative to the omnipotence of sovereignty. Between those vision is a notion of uncontracted power, of benign intervention, of higher order repatterning accepting the moral risk of aggressive behavior rather than ceding it to its enemies. We must think "power" and "the good" otherwise as well...
As a fighter, I'm much more inclined to turn the other cheek only in doing a reverse back kick to the opponent's head. So I'd agree with the need to forgo the rationalized pacifism in both legislating and enforcing severe punishment for social and environmental crime, as well as fiercely fighting tooth and nail against regressive policy.
In Caputo's other writings the issue of sovereignty has more to do with a dysfunctional imbalance of individuality, much like we're seeing in Rifkin's and other's criticisms of capitalism. It seems Caputo's sentiments are more in alignment with the commons/p2p attitude here. It doesn't devolve into relativism but finds a more sustainable balance between individual and society. Thus this sort of religion helps the least among us who cannot help themselves, still allows individuals to achieve 'abundance' (as defined in this post), yet reducing or eliminating the down side of capitalistic individual sovereignty in terms of excessive greed, consumption and power indicative of its hierarchic socio-economic structures.
PS: Caputo is the creator of the term hier(an)archy, which I translated into a postmetaphysical sort of hier/heterarchy in various threads.
I read the beginning of this Caputo interview this morning discussing the secular and the religious in terms of education. He thinks education should remain secular when defined as the political prohibition on "supporting a particular confessional religion" (1). But he thinks the university should not be secular if that means removing the religious impulse (2). Though he differentiates the latter with confessional religion and defines it as a religion of the "event," described as follows:
"I mean it in Derrida’s sense of the coming of something we cannot see coming, the coming of the unexpected, unprojected, unprogrammed, which of course we hope will make everything new but may make everything worse. With the coming of the event, things are reopened, reinvented, undergo a paradigm shift, a new being, and this happens everywhere, in history and everyday life, in philosophy, in art, in science. [...] Of course, we cannot make events happen—we cannot even see them coming. But we can prepare the conditions under which they happen by keeping things relatively unstable, in a state of optimal disequilibrium, not too much but enough, and this requires judgment and discernment" (2).
There is a flavor of "successful green level" to some of Caputo's expressions but certainly enough emergence-oriented, trans-rational, splice-based, hierarchy/anarchy to mark him as an integrative thinker. Whether it is fair to categorize him (using my attachment to twin-variable approaches) as Chartreuse (yellow/teal thinking with green emotional attitudes & stylistics) is uncertain.
The inadequate integration of aggression, personally and politically, permeates a great deal of our best exemplars and advocates. And that inadequacy has complementary forms (a) reluctance (b) excess, inappropriateness, outbursts. The fighting force of course varies from entity to entity but it must be found more broadly, embraced more surely, and seen into more keenly, in order to either harness it or transcend in a way that opens pathways to the practical embodiment of our wiser and better futures.