Across the globe the liberal logic of capitalism and technocracy has seemingly triumphed, and with it a culture of secularism, now the dominant ideology of the liberal establishment that prefers progress to tradition, an individualized identity to a sense of shared belonging, and free choice to common purpose. As much as this regime has produced wealth, it has also generated inequality and dissatisfaction. The populist insurgency that is sweeping the West is in large part a repudiation of this secular politics, opening the space for a post-liberal political theology. A resurgence of religion is underway that marks the failure of the secularization thesis and the need for alternative cultural resources, beyond positivism, to understand the place of humanity within the cosmos. Is this our new “Great Awakening”?
Amid the crisis of rationalism, critical theorists such as Jürgen Habermas have sought to rescue the project of a reasonable humanism from the twin threats of religious fundamentalism and secular naturalism. Yet Habermas’s conception of postsecularity remains residually secularist because he does not permit faith to make any substantive or critical contribution to public discussion that could undermine the primacy of formal, procedural reason. In response Pope Emeritus Benedict invoked Adorno and Horkheimer’s dialectic of enlightenment because the slogan “reason alone” leads to the dissolution of reason—to the conclusion that only will and power have any reality. The only way to avoid this outcome is to recall—so Benedict’s argument in his much-commented but poorly understood 2006 Regensburg address—that the West’s commitment to humanist reason is grounded in the classical and Christian idea that human rationality participates in the infinite reason of transcendence. Otherwise the rational is but the illusion of our own and of nature’s will to power.
The 2019 Telos Conference will discuss the role of political theology as critical theory of the contemporary: the reappearance of faith in civic life. The focus will not be on intellectual history but rather on how faith is reshaping politics and culture today.
Please note: Sessions taking place at Deutsches Haus at NYU will be open to the general public. Attendance for break-out sessions will be limited to conference participants who have registered with the Telos-Paul Piccone Institute only. Events at Deutsches Haus are free and open to the public. If you would like to attend this event, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. As space at Deutsches Haus is limited, please arrive ten minutes prior to the event to ensure you get a good seat. Thank you!