Metamorphoses of Sacralization: Poetry, Politics, and the Problem of Belief

Term: Fall 2008

Subject Code: GPHI

Course Number: 6621

Very simply, the seminar will be about politics and belief. I will argue that there is no politics worthy of the name without the experience of something like belief. As Oscar Wilde says, 'Everything thing to be true must becomes a religion.� I will try and show the necessity for a moment of sacralization in the constitution of any polity and lay out a history of such sacralization, with historical examples of civil religion from the ancient Greeks through to American democracy, state socialism, current often vacuous debates about European identity and the spectre of Jihadism. Using Rousseau as a guide, I will show in detail how politics and law require something like religion to bind citizens together. This is what I call �the catechism of the citizen�. Such a model of politics significantly challenges the standard left-liberal secularization narrative. I will lean on Hans Blumenberg�s The Legitimacy of the Modern Age and also Charles Taylor�s recent work. I will conclude by criticizing the contemporary theologization of politics, arguing instead for belief at the level of poetry rather than religion. This will lead to the closing hypothesis of what I call 'a politics of the supreme fiction'. Note also that this seminar will include three sessions with Alain Badiou in November.

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