A Synthetic Manifesto: A Review of Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism

Clayton Crockett and Jeffrey W. Robbins are no strangers to readers of this blog. Both are well established figures within the fields of theology, philosophy and the liminal space between them that sometimes goes by the name secular theology and sometimes Continental philosophy of religion. Both are graduates of the Department of Religion at Syracuse University and Crockett now teaches as an associate professor of Religion at the University of Central Arkansas while Robbins is a professor of Religion and Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College. While their friendship has long been know, expressed in the academic realm through their co-editorship of the Insurrections series with ColumbiaUP, Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism is their first co-written book. The book, published in the new Radical Theologies series published by Palgrave Macmillan, is quite consciously written as a kind of manifesto for the practice and future of radical theology. Now, what this means is dependent of course on the figures who develop it, but by radical theology it is clear that people thinking with religious material outside of a confessional duty as well as those who are more explicitly confessional but still attempting to radicalize their confessional thought beyond any capture by that tradition’s authorities. That is, radical theology cuts a wide-swath and it may be the only form of theology that is truly “big tent” in terms of its actions and not just as a propaganda move. However much such a movement might benefit from a manifesto, the disparate directions and materials with which various radical theologians engage with makes creating such a manifesto difficult and risks sedimenting their works and cutting off these radical theologians from the true, creative source of their power. At times it feels that Crockett and Robbins risk such sedimentation. However, what ultimately saves them from this temptation is their very synthetic approach. This is a book constructed not in the name of Crockett and Robbins, but through a multiplicity of names that are brought together in varying ways and with various levels of success under the standard “The New Materialism”.

Crockett and Robbins write the book under the sign of a disaster. The disaster of our contemporary age whose name is in some sense Legion, but whose true name is Capitalism. This fundamental insight, drawn from Philip Goodchild amongst others, is put this way by the authors:

The problem is fundamental: Western capitalism is based upon assumptions of indefinite if not infinite growth, but the natural resources of the planet are finite. We are running up against real, physical constraints to growth, and the capitalist machine is desperately searching for more resources to fuel ever-shorter periods of apparent productivity or profitability, like a junkie shooting up more often with higher concentrations to get that same hight that is diminishing with each hit. [...] We will briefly lay out three aspects of our current crisis: the ecological crisis, which is often view primarily in terms of global warming; the energy crisis, which involves peak oil and the limits of our ability to extract and exploit the cheap energy of fossil fuels; and finally the financial crisis, which involves the deleveraging and destruction of massive amounts of money and credit. Each of these problems is interrelated, because money is dependent upon energy, and energy is a product of natural physical resources that are finite and diminishing. Rather than give in to despair, or idealistic wishful thinking, we suggest that this crisis could provide an oepning for a new kind of orientation to thinking and acting, a new way of being in and of the earth (my emphasis).

As this long quote shows, it is the disaster that conditions in some way the thought but, hopefully, does not determine it. The crisis is a call to think and to be in ways that are more creative and more interesting than the failed forms of thought and practice that are determined and reign under the capitalist crisis.

The authors then take us on a comprehensive tour through a number of very important loci for contemporary radical theology ranging from digital culture, religion, politics, art, ethics, energy, onto-neurology, logic, and the Event. Each of these loci are privileged as a central node for any contemporary form of thought that would respond to the crisis outlined above. Each is analyzed through Crockett and Robbins’s understanding of the Hegelian dialectic where, in their reading, thought returns to itself as, in this case, the earth. What they aim to do with this conception of dialectics is bring together a number of disparate thinkers, to reconcile figures that normally wouldn’t be thought to be reconcilable, namely a number of new Hegelian thinkers (Zizek, Malabou, and Badiou) with the work of Spinozist thinkers like (Deleuze and Negri). The synthetic aspect of each chapter is on display as the authors move from one thinker to the next, linking them as if they were simply amino acids to construct a DNA code that organizes a larger body of thought.

In many ways the authors are not the authors in the normal sense, setting aside that some of the chapter are co-written with a third (Michael W. Wilson assisted with chapter on art and Kevin Mequet co-wrote the two chapters on energy). Instead of a stable author there is a proliferation of names, different lines of thought taken and extended by some antagonistic name. A line from Zizek completed by connecting it to a line of Deleuze. In many ways the claims of the book will certainly be familiar to its readers. What is new is the synthetic form it takes here and ultimately its readers will need to decide if such a synthesis is possible, or if one of these figures or terms will overdetermine the rest, for the manifesto style of the book precludes the authors doing that themselves.

For my part, I found the book exciting for all the reasons stated above, but I remain suspicious of a certain Hegelian, and so Christian, overdetermination of this kind of radical theology proposed. One of the fundamental claims of the book is that the current crisis requires new alliances between the sciences, humanities, political movements, and religion. I, of course, agree with them on this point. However, the challenge is to make this a truly new alliance. For example, while some attention is given to ecology, it is only in the mode of disaster ecology or a discussion of global climate change. Ecology as such is absent from the chapter detailing a proposal for a new kind of paradigm for thinking about energy. I am unable to evaluate the validity of the claims made in this chapter, relating to conceiving of energy without heat, and I suspect that the authors wrote this with a bit of fear and trembling. But what did struck me is that, even if the proposal to look into the electromagnetism of the Earth as a potential for energy production holds up scientifically within physics, there would still require an ecological element that is missing. Ecology teaches us not that everything is connected, that’s quite simply obvious when one just thinks about causation, but ecology is the science of those relations, showing where some links are more intense while others are not. All of this translates into material questions about the effects of some new human technology upon the wider human and non-human biosphere. Since much of this discussion of energy is predicated upon a kind of Hegelian vision, I can’t help but wonder if the issue of reconciliation, ecological theodicy, is not laying underneath this proposal.

There is also the issue of the way religion, and thus materialism, is conceived within the book. The authors only ever reference Christianity and seem to privilege the Hegelian version of the death of God outlined in Zizek over other forms of religion. This is in some ways a result of the genre of the book. As a synthetic manifesto it will only really be able to respond to how things truly are within the fields it builds on and announces. And much of the new materialism, whether it be secular philosophers like Badiou or a philosopher playing a theologian which we sometimes find in Zizek, is predicated upon an unspoken supremacy of Christianity as the only religion that actually ends in the secular, that ends in a kind of productive atheism (against the New Athiest style atheism). For any truly radical rethinking of politics an engagement outside of the Christian form is called for. One where the notion of Event may too be suspect.

Yet, these criticisms aside, Crockett and Robbins have done us a great service by bringing together a number of exciting but disparate lines of research in their synthetic manifesto. It may help younger intellectuals develop and go forward in a genuinely new way that may yet just respond, at least within thought, to the contemporary crisis.

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43 Responses to “A Synthetic Manifesto: A Review of Religion, Politics, and the Earth: The New Materialism

  1. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Wow, $80. What are publishers thinking with that pricing model?!

  2. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Libraries. It’ll be out in paperback next year.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    If it’ll be out in paperback next year, why would the libraries buy it at the current ridiculous price? Don’t they have budgets, etc.?

  4. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I’m pretty sure almost all the $100 hardbacks they printed for Zizek and Theology and Politics of Redemption were either sharply discounted or remaindered. That was slightly different because they released the paperback simultaneously, but still…. Anyway, this is off topic. Sorry.

  5. Christopher Rodkey Says:

    Great overview/review, thanks.

    And: At the AAR, I think I saw the publisher having a raffle for those of us not up for the list price.

  6. clayton crockett Says:

    Thanks Anthony, for this very generous review that captures the spirit of what Jeff and I were trying to do, which was to write a kind of synthetic manifesto. We agree and regret that it is too expensive, Adam, and we’ve been promised a paperback version next October.

    As far as your criticisms, I don’t really disagree, because I think that we need to work out a more developed and general ecology. To the extent that we do talk about the Earth here, it’s from a standpoint of a (perhaps impossible) synthesis of Hegel and Deleuze. So I understand the issues with Hegel, although I still think that Hegel as read through Zizek and Malabou is relevant and important, but the understanding of energy and ecology here is also thoroughly Deleuzian. The vision of the earth is taken partly from the Geology of Morals, from A Thousand Plateaus. And the perspective on energy, while highly speculative in terms of Mequet’s work, is tied directly to chapter 5 of Difference and Repetition, which reconceptualizes thermodynamics.

    The issue of Christianity is deeply profound and problematic, although we do mention the Dao in the chapter on Logic. I just think that insofar as capitalism functions as a universal or quasi-universal condition, we don’t have a neutral plane of ‘world religions’ because capitalism emerges out of Christianity. Or as Walter Benjamin says, even more strongly, Christianity becomes capitalism. If this is right, then Christianity is not just one religion among others, and we have to be able to see how in so many ways Christianity function as the one True religion, as Lacan says. This is not to celebrate or deplore it, but to acknowledge that it’s always overdetermined.

  7. Kevin Mequet Says:

    Anthony, may we discuss the two energy chapters further, if you’d like? In such a slim volume it is impossible to be comprehensive. You raise important points I think were addressed but unfortunately not comprehenisvely. Ecology as you’ve defined it is quite correct and most applicable. I would recommend companion reading that instrumentally informed our work. Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan’s ‘Into the Cool,’ Thomas Kuhn’s ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,’ Rod Swenson’s ‘Spontaneous Order, Autocatakinetic Closure, and the Development of Space-Time’ & ‘Autocatakinetics, Evolution, and the Law of Maximum Entropy Production: A Principled Foundation Towards the Study of Human Ecology,’ Kozo Mayumi, Mario Giampietro, John M. Goudy’s ‘Ecological Economics’ and William Stanley Jevons’ ‘The Coal Question: An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal-Mines.’ Not to overload you! These references formed the basis of the claims in the two energy chapters, but our intent to reach a wider readership affected their comprehensiveness. I enjoyed your review very much.

  8. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I haven’t read the book, but a highly speculative chapter on alternative energy seems like an odd fit, even leaving aside issues of comprehensiveness, etc. I’m far from being a scholar of energy, etc., but literally the first time I heard of these ideas was in connection with Clayton and Jeff’s book. Could you say more about why you thought it was important to include this section in a manifesto-style book?

  9. clayton crockett Says:

    Adam, the chapter on Energy is central, and crucial to the book and to our vision, because in a sense our view of what radical theology is and does is based on a kind of energetics of being, rather than linguistic constructivism or objects. I began to study energy and resource scarcity after the 2004 election, when I learned about peak oil, although as Anthony says, Goodchild is the first person who introduced this concept to me.

    And my theoretical view of energy has developed based on my collaboration with Kevin Mequet, and Kevin’s research, which also involved reading Difference and Repetition together a number of times. Because Kevin’s notion is such a powerful and radical reconceptualization, and because it instantiates the kind of thinking I think we need, we decided to include it, even though as we admit it is highly speculative. The key is that is based on a different sort of thinking about the earth, to consider how the earth generates its own magnetic field.

  10. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Well, that’s nothing if not bold.

  11. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Wait, this is basically Tesla’s idea, right? As discussed in Pynchon’s Against the Day?

  12. Paul Reid-Bowen Says:

    Thanks for the review, this sounds an excellent book. I’m running a new module next year on philosophy, religion and energy/climate, so the more resources like this I can locate the better. You may wish to look at Allan Stoekl’s Bataille’s Peak: Energy, Religion and Postsustainability (University of Minnesota Press, 2007) as a rather exotic philosophical and theological perspective on peak oil and energy expenditure.

    Now to order a copy for the library.

  13. clayton crockett Says:

    Thanks Paul, I have read Stoekl’s book but after this book was basically finished. It’s a really fascinating and rich reading of Bataille, and I see us as doing something similar here with Deleuze.

    Adam, I haven’t read this book by Pynchon and I’m vaguely aware that there are affinities here with Tesla, although I don’t know enough of the specifics about Tesla to know how similar.

  14. Jeremy Says:

    Clayton, I regret that I haven’t gotten a chance to read the text. Based on Anthony’s review, I did have a question about radical theology. The book’s structure made me think that the ways in which you and Jeff are using radical theology has a deeper resonance with Mark C Taylor’s approach and methodology. I recognize you guys have a much different politics and philosophy but there does seem to be some commonalities in terms of method. Whereas Altizer was obsessed with questions of revelation, ontology, incarnation and crucifixion/resurrection, it appears you all are much more influenced by Tillich’s Theology of Culture. During Anthony’s review, I kept thinking: what is the role of God in this radical theology? Or rather, why even bother with the baggage of theology when it appears that a political and philosophical orientation grounds and animates this work. I realize both of you would reject the reductionism of the New Atheism but why are we still talking about theology when it is clear that the question of God has been displaced for more pressing earthly matters?

  15. clayton crockett Says:

    Great question, Jeremy, and I agree that we’re both very much influenced by Mark C. Taylor. Even if the question of God is displaced, that doesn’t mean that some of the logic and affects don’t continue to function. That is, I need a kind of radical theological language to help make sense of what’s going on here on earth. So there’s a perspective of radical theology that goes back to Tillich that informs how I work, and there’s an issue or topic of political theology that is a vital issue today, partly due to the so-called return of religion in public and political ways that I call a post-secularism. And post-secularism is connected to the breakdown of liberalism, as well as the issues of capitalism that we try to think about here.

    As Anthony well knows, Goodchild’s work on money is important here, too, insofar as money becomes the value through which we structure other values, and this ‘substitutes’ in a way for God. In some ways it’s a theology without God, at least in any traditional sense, but there’s still this significance, or this specter of theology. I’m starting to read Laruelle more seriously now, and I wonder if what I am calling radical theology could also be called non-theology, analogous to how Laruelle understands non-philosophy.

    Right now I’m trying to think about the theological, political and philosophical significance of Lacan’s shift from the Other (A) to the other (a), as a kind of transformation of capitalism in terms of how he analyzes objet a in terms of surplus jouissance in Seminar XVII. And this maps onto a lot of what was going on in the early 70s–domestic oil production peaks in 1970, Nixon abandons gold standard in 71, the development of what Naomi Klein calls disaster capitalism in early 70s, and you also have the first real stirrings of environmentalism, think of the Club of Rome, etc. Theology gives me a framework and a perspective to try and make sense of all this.

  16. Kevin Mequet Says:

    I just added ‘Bataille’s Peak’ to my goodreads ‘to read’ list, Paul Reid-Bowen. Thank you for this recommendation. I have great regard for the Bataille in general and ‘The Accursed Share’ in particular. General Economics does figure prominently in my thoughts. Adam, Clayton is posting something on your observation about Tesla. The be clear, I haven’t read the book you referenced yet, are you referring to Tesla’s so-called ‘free atmospheric electricity’ idea?

  17. clayton crockett Says:

    What I’ve been able to read up about Pynchon’s novel and Tesla concerns a death ray he claimed to invent that might have caused an enormous explosion in Siberia, although most people think it was a meteor strike.

    Also, I asked Kevin about Tesla and he says:

    That’s a very interesting connection and appropriate thought. There are many things about Tesla with which I resonate and appreciate. There are also many things he thought that I find ridiculous because they were foreclosed by Einstein. That does not bother me at all. He was a visionary inventor who in many ways outgunned Edison. But Edison understood the power of consumerism and capitalistic imperialism that did Tesla in. Theoretically, Tesla still prevails. The Electricity Machine and Jacob’s Ladder are still featured in physics classes. Mixed bag.

    If Adam is referring to the so-called ‘free atmospheric electricity’ idea, then let’s be frank. It’s ridiculous. It’s a perpetual motion machine pipedream. This ought to cement for you though. Ayn Rand used it for John Galt’s ‘static electricity atmospheric’ generator in ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ ‘Nuff said?!

  18. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Pynchon also talks about the free atmospheric electricity and suggests conspiratorially that Edison’s model only won out because you can’t charge for free electricity. But it’s a work of fiction, so I assume he took liberties.

  19. clayton crockett Says:

    There’s a lot of kooky mysticism stuff about Tesla technologies, and also with quantum physics. We’re trying to keep our distance from that!

  20. Rex Styzens Says:

    Thanks very much for the review. I am interested to know whether the authors are able or even attempt to distinguish between capitalism and private property. And if so, is there one particular analysis they rely on. In addition, did Michael Eldred’s recent work on political/economic philosophy make an appearance in the new book?

  21. clayton crockett Says:

    Rex, we don’t use Eldred’s work, although it does look very interesting. We do use some of Graeber’s analysis in Debt. And we don’t really get into a study of private property, although Hardt and Negri’s work on the common is potentially relevant here. This is a very broad sketch, and doesn’t nearly go deep enough into particular issues. My understanding of capitalism is heavily influenced by Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, which shows how the attempt to create a total world market failed in the 1930s as nation states were forced to abandon the gold standard, and this gives rise to distinct but nevertheless similar forms of fascism.

    I think you can make distinctions among different stages and forms of capitalism, and also between capitalism and things like markets and property. Part of it’s the arrangements, and part of it is how the ideology functions to justify them.

  22. Rex Styzens Says:

    As a recent admirer of Jean-Luc Nancy, who seems to have adopted Heidegger’s dislike of dialectics, the apparent dependence of this new work on dialectics is discouraging. If I want dialectics, I can find all I want in Paul Ricoeur.

    In his 1997 volume, IDEALISM AS MODERNISM: HEGELIAN VARIATIONS, p 375, at the very beginning of his discussion of “the theoretical implications both draw from being anti-Cartesian” Robert B Pippin writes, “Contrary to Heidegger’s own view, both Hegel and Heidegger are, I shall claim, anti-Cartesians. (According to Heidegger, Hegel was the greatest Cartesian.)” citing “Heidegger’s Cartesian reading of Hegel’s notion of spirit in sect. no. 82 of Sein und Zeit.”

    I do not find Pippin’s effort there to identify Hegel as anti-Cartesian persuasive. But I am way out of my league arguing with Pippin.

  23. inthesaltmine Says:

    Hi Anthony, my name is David. Sorry it’s not related to this post, I just couldn’t find where to contact you personally.

    Would you be able to take a look at my latest post on Naturphilosophie? Here, I come out in defence of Laruelle contra the Badiouian conditions, and expand upon Laruelle as I think there is one avenue that he has yet to explore in depth, i.e non-violence: https://inthesaltmine.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/naturphilosophie/

    Thanks for any feedback.

  24. Jeff Robbins Says:

    Sorry I am so late to the discussion. I’d certainly like to echo the sentiments of Kevin and Clayton thanking Anthony for the review. I’ve told him personally and it bears repeating on the blog — I take his concern over the privileging of Christianity as a real one. I felt the same way at the recent AAR session on our work when I/we got called out for our casual disregard of liberation theology. These are exactly the kind of critical interventions we want and need, and obviously not just in regard to our own book or our own variant of radical theology, but for philosophical theology more broadly.

    To explain if not to defend, and as Clayton has already hinted, because this book was in effect a manifesto that aimed to think the discrete fields of religion, politics, ethics, energy, the economy and metaphysics together as a comprehensive whole, at times we are left skimming along the surface. But if the book has done its work it provides both a template and a challenge–the template would be a non-reductive materialism that opens up rather than restricts thought to bodies of knowledge and forms of thought otherwise treated as isolated and distinct, if not entirely at cross purposes; and the challenge would be that no body of knowledge or form of thought may be regarded as self-sufficient.

    To Rex’s concern, this last comment should make it clear that we are only Hegelian’s in a certain way–I’d call it the future Hegel in the spirit of Catherine Malabou. Our Hegel is not the caricature of the grant totalizer whose teleology had reached its end by history’s completion. Instead, our Hegel is plastic. Thus, when thinking of the human he appeals to habit as the means by which we take on a second nature. Through habit, humans “choose” or “will” what comes to us from the outside, only there is no outside, but a radical immanence or a new materialism. We have used what is accidental—that which is incidental to us—to take on a second nature, and thus, transform our essence. In Malabou’s words, this is “the becoming essential of the accident.”

    What we garner from this, at its most simplistic level, is a breaking down of binaries. No more divide between the essential/accidental, material/immaterial, real/virtual, nature/culture. And at least by way of Malabou’s Hegel who becomes our future Hegel, this is accomplished by the temporalizing of time. There is a future to Hegel because his Absolute Knowledge is characterized by “metamorphosis” not “stasis”, and thus the dialectic process does not stop, but changes and transforms.

    We get the same notion from Malabou’s reading of Heidegger–namely, this is a thinking of difference that is predicated on change. Indeed, on being qua change. Change comes first, to the point that there is no beginning or end to change. And by virtue of this, we do not have to appeal to something outside or Other to find difference.

    For us, the political implications of this as a means of conceiving resistance to capitalism are profound. Likewise, when it comes to thinking energy beyond heat or imagining alternatives to the looming energy crisis: We are Hegelian to the extent that we think there are present possibilities latent within energy itself. It is in this same way that the earth is our single subject.

  25. Rex Styzens Says:

    Jeff, thank you very much for that account. I have not studied Malabou, so am unaware of the Hegel interpretation you describe. And that certainly increases the likelihood that I will read your new book.

  26. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Jeff,

    I can’t really write out this in detail (behind on a bajillion things) so I’m just going to throw it out that provocatively and if you want to pick it up you can.

    What if the reason you guys privilege Christianity so much is because you privilege Hegel? And not even the caricatured Hegel (who, I don’t know, seems to me to be there in the Philosophy of History and Philosophy of Religion…), but the Hegel of Zizek and Malabou? The Hegel of identity able to adjust and accommodate, while assimilating?

  27. clayton crockett Says:

    Anthony, I think it’s the other way around. We privilege Hegel because we privilege Christianity. And we privilege Christianity because we ‘privilege’ capitalism, because both are hegemonic. This is not to suggest there aren’t other intrinsically valuable or viable alternatives, it’s just that’s the monster in the room we can’t avoid. It’s not a question of being for or against Christianity as such, because you cannot avoid or escape it. As Lacan says, religion will triumph, and the Christian religion gives the form of religion, it determines what we mean by religion to a great extent. Which doesn’t mean that there aren’t others, but just that you can’t simply imagine that they are all the same.

  28. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    I’m not convinced on this Christianity = capitalism line at all. Or that Christianity provides the form of religion. That seems to go counter to an understanding of religion via plasticity. And so we are back to Hegel of the philosophy of history b

  29. clayton crockett Says:

    Good point–there is a tension there, and there is also a remainder, so that Christianity does not equal capitalism completely, but I think it largely does. I think plasticity gives us a way to understand this differently, but I also think we have to take into account the ‘modern,’ which we’re seeing as more thoroughly religious than previously–we could also think of Asad’s work here. Just as plasticity doesn’t make sense unless one understands what ‘writing’ is, I can’t understand all this without taking Christianity into account. I don’t mean to totalize this, though, and I agree with Jeff that it’s an incredibly important point. And I think that your work on the “generic secular” is important here as well.

  30. Adam Kotsko Says:

    What light do you think Taubes could shed on your work, Clayton?

  31. clayton crockett Says:

    I think Taubes is hugely important here, as well as Benjamin. I haven’t read From Cult to Culture though. But the Political Theology of Paul and Occidental Eschatology are hugely important in context of Schmitt, as well as Leo Strauss. So many of these issues in German from the Weimar return in different ways. Lazier’s God Interrupted is interesting here. Some of the tension and relations between Christianity, Judaism and paganism from the first couple centuries seem to get ‘repeated in the twentieth in weird ways. We have a translation of Taubes’ To Carl Schmitt coming out in Insurrections in May.

  32. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Oh wow, that’s great that you guys are doing To Carl Schmitt.

  33. clayton crockett Says:

    The other thing I was thinking of is why in an article on Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Derrida says “I insist on the Christian dimension” of translation and he’s very dismissive of Shylock’s literalism. So why? I think for the same reason he’s wary of Nancy’s deconstruction of Christianity: because Christianity always wins, sort of like vulgar Hegelianism. So there has to be an alternative to straightforward opposition that falls into the trap of sublation and the straightforward endorsement of it. I think he’s trying to twist Christianity into a work of mourning. And I think that Zizek and Malabou are doing something similar to Hegel, twisting the dialectic. But I also get the aporia, how you get trapped by staying inside it, how you need an ‘outside’ even if there is no outside…

  34. clayton crockett Says:

    Columbia had commissioned To Carl Schmitt, but it took a long time, and it’s so short it needed an introduction, so we asked Mike Grimshaw to write one for us, which he did, and we asked if we could put it in the series, and they agreed.

  35. Joshua Ramey Says:

    Below is a transcript, somewhat altered, of the presentation I gave on Clayton and Jeff’s book at the NASSR meetings coincident with the AAR this year. There is some overlap with Anthony’s remarks, but there are some other things I am interested in working through, as well, in the context of the project of thinking earth in this day and age.

    Geosophia: Prospects and Concepts

    On Clayton Crockett and Jeff Robbins’ The New Materialism: Religion, Politics, and the Earth

    Joshua Ramey

    The New Materialism: Religion, Politics, and the Earth, is co-authored by Jeff Robbins and Clayton Crockett. It’s just out from Palgrave-Macmillan Press. Full disclosure: I am one of the editors of the Radical Theologies Series in which the book is published, so yes, this is promotional material. The book both crystallizes and advances the projects of radical democracy and radical political theology that have animated Crockett and Robbins’ other works, and these are projects the Palgrave series is firmly behind (for more on the series, edited by myself along with Michael Zbaraschuk and Mike Grimshaw, visit us at http://us.macmillan.com/series/RadicalTheologies. We are always looking for new projects to support.
    In The New Materialism, Crockett and Robbins claim to “risk writing from the perspective of the earth” (xix), and the book is indeed a kind of manifesto for an as-yet-unrealized terrestrial thought. The book can be placed as part of what I would call a “geosophy” or “geosophia” that has animated many projects in the last ten or fifteen years, including most notably the work of Philip Goodchild, William B. Connolly, Catherine Keller, and AUFS’ own Anthony Paul Smith, whose work on ecology is also forthcoming from the Radical Theologies series.
    For Crockett and Robbins, the thought of the earth is a complex thought, simultaneously a politicization of religion, a theologization of politics, and a spiritualization of the earth. This triple movement advances the earth as a singular name for multiple potentialities: potencies of life and thought that have yet to be properly appreciated by a humanity suffering from multiple illusions about its relation to earth, and thus its relation to itself.
    The “earth,” in The New Materialism, is thus a name for both one and too many things. Earth names our contingent locale (our “fragile island home,” as it is known in the Book of Common Prayer) but also a multitude of forces: gravity, magnetism, rhythm, heat, pulsation, evolution, living and dying. So earth is figured here not as a stable concept, not necessarily your mother, and maybe not even your friend. It is named, perhaps, as an elusive yet alluring partner, one from whom we are continuously estranged and yet to whom we are inexorably bound. Part of the authors’ thesis is that the thought of the earth is in many ways yet to be conceived other than as a romanticized environmentalism, and requires a prophetic manifesto. In the prophetic and apocalyptic tradition in which I would argue this book is situated, “earth” is an eschatological name, a name of the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.
    As Proust long ago maintained, and as Deleuze constantly reminded us, we do not think until we are forced to think. In The New Materialism, the thought of the earth is not one scried through a priori or dogmatic reflection. The thought of the earth is a thought forced upon us by unfolding events. For the moment, that means global warming (let’s please stop calling it climate change), ecological degradation, species extinction, and above all the impending collapse of international finance-based capitalism as it reaches the limits of its impossible, debt-based dream of infinite growth on a finite planet. Yet this crisis of the earth is not figured by Crockett and Robbins as a crisis of some other-than-us called earth. What is suffering, what is dying, what is being inexorably lost is us, is we who think. Such an event therefore calls not simply for a change in human behavior, but an alteration in thought itself. In an explicitly Hegelian twist, Crockett and Robbins demand a thinking that is in and of the earth, a thought that is an earth returning to itself as thought. The necessity of the thought of the earth is grounded upon the contingent demise of the earth. In Hegelian terms, the earth as Absolute (Spirit) is realized in and through its Particular character insofar as that particularity is the specificity of a contingent history, a fatal and perhaps inexorable process of loss.
    But all may not be lost. As that earlier American prophet of the earth, Norman O. Brown, once instructed us, apocalypse is also metamorphosis. What may be needed, in short, is nothing less than a politics of resurrection. If something persists in the earth, something comes back, returns, resurrects beyond all apparent process of decay and destruction and loss. But what are these potentials, these potencies that seem to die but also seem to transform and to return, or to return as transformed and transforming? Norman O. Brown himself contended, in his lectures on “The Challenge of Islam,” that such a vision, and the politics it entails, might be found not within doctrines of resurrection within orthodox Christianity, but within the concepts of angelic manifestation and prophetic epiphany found in the radical Gnostic prophetic tradition of political Islam. I will return to Brown, and to his hopes and disappointments with Islam, in a moment.
    But for now, what is the substance of the claim that the earth speaks? What does a politics of resurrected potencies look like? Let me give you just a taste, here, of some of the inroads Crockett and Robbins try to make on this question. In the first place, religion. They argue that, in spite of the debacle of fundamentalism, religion contains revolutionary potencies, evident both in the Arab Spring (perhaps manifesting authentic, prophetic Islam) and in the Occupy Movement (perhaps showing authentic, Sermon-on-the-Mount Christianity). But what does the re-politicization of religion, and the discovery of a radically democratic, constitutive power germane to at least some religion, have to do with the earth? The earth as middle term between religion and politics here has to do, they claim, with earth as “potentia,” potential (48). The earth names the people not as a represented population but as what Hardt and Negri conceive of as the “immanent force” (53) of the multitude, a non-dominant, non-totalized force manifest as the eventual rule of everyone by everyone. Elaborating the ontology of Hardt and Negri’s politics, Crockett and Robbins claim that earth also names what Catherine Malabou calls altermondialisation (biological alter-worldliness), a radical plasticity inherent both to the brain and to the earth itself. And in a chapter on aesthetics the authors suggest that Malabou’s conception of plasticity resonates with Terry Eagleton’s aesthetics of the communist sublime, “excessive of all form, out in advance of its own rhetoric” (66), as well as with Felix Guattari’s affirmation of art as a “rupturing of sense” in the name of a life-affirming collectivity. They call for a re-materialization of art (68) that would resist the dematerialization symptomatic of advance information-based finance capital. (The excessive focus on “the conceptual management style” in contemporary art is derided).
    From aesthetics to ethics (and here I am tracing for you in brief outline the contours of the book’s unfolding chapters), “the earth” names an ethics that would be a “geology of morals,” a synchronization of conceptions of the good with the ineluctable, perturbing, yet enchanting rhythms of organic and inorganic beings (73). Such an ethics would demand a different, post-capitalist future, since it would insist upon modes of value that cannot be ultimately converted into money, a value we are made aware of, for Crockett and Robbins, through that mode of attention Heidegger called Gelassenheit, “letting-be” (80). But beyond Heideggerian piety, with its romanticized, territorialized vision of earth and its Völker, the authors embrace an earth that is wilder, more cosmic than Heimlich: that impersonal natura naturans (80) of Spinoza, subject of affirmation in Deleuze’s reading of Nietzsche’s active forces (81). Very fast: from Spinoza to Nietzsche to Deleuze, earth’s active forces are those that do not restrict what they can do, but do all that they can do, are all they can be, affirming themselves in becoming (84). Yet here is no simple vitalism: becoming-imperceptible affirms a life that is bound up with death, and an organic ethos of which death is a necessary component (84).
    After an excursus on energy and an experimental program for new energy production, we get the earth as “Being (A Brain).” They write, “energetic being is already spirit, that is Hegelian spirit, and it takes the form of beings, that is, of organized being. ‘Brain’ here is a metaphor for organization or complexity, and it goes beyond simply living organisms or conscious beings” (118). And later they affirm that a “self-emergent complexity is immanent to the process of energy, the transformation of energy fields into each other and energy into matter and vice versa” (119). The earth, as self-organized complexity, is being (a brain) (119). But brains (languages, mathematics, organisms) are screens, “as surface or structure that supports a thought, but it “is” the thought itself, pure immanence, because there is nothing behind the screen” (122). This means that to keep thinking, or to think anew, demands at this stage a renewal of energy, the search for “cooler” modes of energy (and somehow, of thought itself) such as the ambitious conception of Keven Mequet for an electromagnetic source of energy that does not depend upon heat. I can’t reproduce that radical proposal here, but can only affirm that ever since the suppression of the work of Nicola Tesla, revolutionary minds have been convinced that we may have access to modes of energy that could potentially liberate human life from its oppressive dependency on centralize state power and corporate monopolization.
    I have tried to give you, then, some sense of the brisk pace and manifesto style of The New Materialism. Now let me give you some of the author’s own words, before I move into some of my own affirmations of and questions about this project. Above all, for Crockett and Robbins, the manifesto for the earth is a message of joy and love. The authors affirm
    …nature naturing, infinite substance in its becoming, and ourselves as modifications of substance, both accepting and affirming our finite natures. . . . finally, we can affirm joy as love, if it is not just self-affirmation but the active force of attraction. Joy is love for another not as simple celebration of what is lacking in oneself, but the affirmation of becoming-other of another and being in relationship with another, because all beings are others, including oneself, and all being is in relation, because it is being in modification. Being in relation is also being in rotation, which means dancing and spinning in a rhythmic manner . . . rotation is vibration; it is radiation, and all beings radiate, not just subatomic particles. We affirm the joy of resonating with substance/life and all other things, which also radiate being. This affirmation is not restricted to white male human beings but is shared among other humans and other species in important and powerful ways, including even inorganic beings.
    We affirm an active ethics of participation, an ethics of attraction that generates truth rather than discovers it, one that builds up connections rather than tears them down. We do not desire to fill in the lack in our being by mistakenly substituting our finite modes with infinite substance; our desire is excessive, even transgressive as it expands beyond our finite selves toward the infinite. . . . (85-86).
    I hope that passage is enticing enough to persuade you to read the book. The rest of what I want to say constitutes a series of resonances, reservations, and re-affirmations of the project of a new materialism. I want to say at the outset that as problematic as this project is, I affirm completely that this effort, the effort to think the earth, is very much the task of our times. What follows is, in a way, the way I myself have tried to take up this task on my own, attendant to my own series of attractions, difficulties, and exhilarations.
    Crockett and Robbins link the thought of the earth to Spinoza’s third kind of knowledge or intellectual love of God, and to an affirmation of life as infinite substance rather than as affirmed in and through any of its particular modes (81). This is of course Spinoza’s “intellectual love of God,” by means of which the mind perceives itself as a mode of the mind of God, as a dimension of the absolute, and takes joy in affirming its unadulterated reality. But there is another side to this vibrating, resonating love and joy. Besides naming our bliss, the earth names our agony. Creation groans, as St. Paul once put it bluntly. Besides being sheer delight, the earth is also sickness, cancer, dementia. The earth is catastrophe, disaster, violent rupture, black hole and monstrosity—forest fire, typhoon, and cannibalizing parents. The earth is viral as well as virile, cruel as it is sublime, as cold as it is enticing. What kind of thinking, what kind of geo-logic or geo-sophy, can become adequate to both suffering and joy? As Crockett and Robbins put it in their 9th chapter, the kind of thinking the earth does (Ch. 9, “Logic”) is “profoundly invested and interested in its environment” rather than neutral or objective. The logic of earth is broken, fragmented, itinerant, episodic, a logic “rendered inoperative in absolute terms, which does not meant that it ceases to function but rather that it is ungrounded and nonfoundational” (144).
    But what kind of logic is this? Interestingly, and I think accurately, Crockett and Robbins call this earthy logic a Christo-logic, a cosmic Christology. As it was for Norman O. Brown, as it was for Bataille and arguably for Nietzsche, the import of Christianity lies not in the demand that all accept Christ as savior, but in the reality that life on earth, when faced squarely for the life and death that it is, is a passion of the earth with which Christ must be fully, finally, even apocalyptically identified. Such identification would constitute a kind of eschatology of immanence, the eschatology one finds in Nietzsche and Bataille, but also before them in the poetry of William Blake and in the heroic frenzies of Giordano Bruno. A Christology as geo-logy was already Bruno’s heretical view of creation as the complete diremption of the divine being in cosmic vicissitude (rather than merely a contingent expression of divine plenitude as gift). And Blake’s apocalypse presents the Savior as energy, pure delight. The logic of earth is a Christo-theo-logic.
    What we are talking about here is not Christian orthodoxy, but a kind of difficult synthesis between Christ and Dionysus—Dionysus the god of intoxication and death, but also the dialectical god of death in life and life in death, and Christ the suffering servant, the healer, the apocalyptic prophet, who comes not with peace but with the sword that will divide the oppressor from the meek. As Norman O. Brown made explicit throughout his work, the Dionysiac vision is one of a Gnostic Christ, a Christ not of incarnation but of epiphany, manifestation—Christ manifesting (once for all, if one is a Christian, or prophetically and intermittently, if one is Muslim) the passion of the earth, the passion of each and all. This is the Christo-logic of geo-sophy: the ultimate stakes of life on earth are the only stakes, the only subject and object of our collective and singular passions.
    But to twist this screw once more, geo-sophia is not only Christology, but, as inflected by Dionysian Gnosis, it is a feminized Christ, a Christ whose wounds are his womb. Dionysian hermaphroditism here encounters the strange androgeny, at least in his represented image, of this apparently single, apparently sexless man from Gallilee. Perhaps the main thing missing from The New Materialism is the fact that, Gaia hypothesis and New Age sentimentalism aside, when we evoke the earth, we invoke her, and we must take on rather than avoid the cultural legacy of a deeply gendered and engendering earth. Catherine Keller, has profoundly instructed us on this point, as has Cleo Kearns in her work on the Virgin Mary, and has Karmen MacKendrick with her work on divine enticements. These profoundly feminist voices and perspectives must be incorporated into any thought of the earth, and lack of engagement with feminist and eco-feminist theologies is perhaps the most troubling lacuna of The New Materialism.
    The effeminate, even hermaphroditic Christ is the Christ of Bruno, a feral, even mineral and material eternal body, eternally dying, eternally reborn. And here, through the womb, we come to sex. As Brown once put it, this is a matter of “living each others deaths, dying each others lives.” It is a sado-masochistic politics. Eroticism is the sacramental moment at which I consume you with the too-muchness of my desire, a desire that goes beyond you—you light my fire, you become my highway to hell, or through hell. Il n’y a pas de rapport sexuel, there is no sexual relationship, because sex is not a relation with the partner, but through the partner to life and death. We consume one another. We sacrifice one another to our desires.
    With the eroticism that is a necessary aspect of the thought of the earth, we invoke what Catherine Keller would have you hear, the deep tremors of tehomic creation. A profound feminism, perhaps one not as easily amenable to contemporary political struggles as we might like. Perhaps focused on more archaic and perennial problems. Feminism cannot, and should not, avoid its archetypal connection to geo-sophia. At least that is my conviction, along with Brown and the tradition of many men and women mystics.
    With eroticism we come to the problem of surrender and submission (Islam). How do we know to whom we should submit? And when, and where, and how do we know how far to surrender our lives to one another? Norman O. Brown averred, in 1990, that “we do not now how far we can go in this direction.” He was drawn to the religion of surrender, submission: Islam. But he was bitterly disappointed by what he saw as the betrayal of radical, mystical Islam (and the betrayal of the entire prophetic tradition in which he wanted to think and live) by the rise of the Ayatollah Komeni in Iran. And yet Brown’s last message, a series of lectures on “The Challenge of Islam,” was that the Gnostic tradition in Islam, for all its failures, was right—it was, as Žižek might have put it, right in its failures, as its failures. Brown notes that tadical Shi’ite Islam oscillates between several different strategies that become necessary at various points in history, in the oscillations in history. The question of what is to be done is not always the same.
    As Brown points out, one particular Shi’a sect spoke of four types of imams, corresponding to four types of ways the community confronts its enemies: “the state of manifestation when the community was strong enough to overcome the enemy; the state of defense when it could merely hold out resisting; the state of self-sacrifice, when a small group of believers choose uprising and martyrdom; and the state of concealment when the believers were forced to live under the rule of the enemy and practice dissimulation [taqqiya]” (125). Brown noted that this kind of political action is unconventional, a “free will to demonstrate, to manifest, in the unfathomable obscurity of historical circumstance, the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen” (125). With “the unfathomable obscurity of historical circumstance,” we come to the most difficult and perhaps the most intriguing problem of the new materialism: the twin problems of how to interpret contingency and how to interpret the relation of politics to time, in general.
    From my own perspective on time, the politics of the earth is revolutionary, or apocalyptic, but not in the sense of demanding a totally unforeseen or even as yet unimaginable future. Perhaps against Badiou, but certainly contrary to Meillasoux, we might have to say that the affirmative revolutionary politics grounded in geosophia does not require, as a correlate, the unforseeability of the event as a function of real incursion by an infinite, abstract, and ultimately arbitrary set of possibilities into the actuality of a situation. Chaos, let alone Chance, is not the name of the god we are waiting for. I will try to make a case for that point of view in my forthcoming book, Contingency and Actuality: Metaphysics, Divination, Speculation.
    Part of what I will suggest there is that the thought of the earth is the thought of a specific set of potentials within a particular continuum. A thought of the earth is, from this perspective, geared toward the unleashing of potentials that have been actually (contingently) occluded, occulted. And it takes imagination, or more specifically vision, to elaborate these potentials. (Here I would be closer to Žižek than to Badiou or Meillasoux, insofar as Žižek avers that it is a repetition of past failures, a return of an “alternative history,” that marks the revolutionary breakthrough). What must be saved is not a humanity that does not yet exist, or a planet on which we do not yet live, but rather precisely what the schizophrenic identifies with: all the names of history. Day of the dead, all souls. For the new materialism, those in need of the revolution, in need of saving, are those who have lived, who have lost—the lost and wretched of the earth. The politics of the earth is a politics of resurrection. It is oriented, despite its demand for a different, postcapitalist future, primarily to the uncanny persistence of the past in the present, of the as-yet-unrealized potency of specific actualities, and is therefore a politics of the undead, a kind of necromancy, day of the living dead, as evidenced, perhaps most recently, by the kind of carnivalesque and even macabre aesthetic preferred by many of the Occupy Movement members—an aesthetic that has obvious roots in the festival culture surrounding happenings like Burning Man, another delirious celebration of all the names of history through elaborate costuming, role playing, and revelry.
    But there is work to be done, as well as play. And it is a work of thought. Beholden not to arbitrary but to situated, local, historical contingency, thinking is correctly recast, in Crockett and Robbins’ The New Materialism, as sensitivity to events. The correct thought, the truth, is the truth of the event, the truth that discerns the unfolding of the event. This is not a thought that makes a judgment of an event, but a thought that proves itself by the degree to which it participates with an event. But this is of course ambiguous until we are within an event. The event Robbins and Crockett face is the process of mutation by which capital confronts its external limit (energy) as internal to it (the process of production). The bad thought here is the thought that would resist the reality of this event, that would either ignore or deny the event, deny or dismiss the event. How do we become more sensitive to this event, less dismissive?
    How do we attend to contingency, or take care of the sense of the event, as Deleuze once put it? This constitutes what I take to be a core problem of all materialist philosophy. All materialist systems evoke a principle of chance or contingency that is a kind of cause in the last instance of every event. In no materialist system does one ever surmount or avoid the power of the aleatory, the chance element. Contingency, as Crockett and Robbins themselves aver, is absolute. And the most important aspect of the event, for the materialist, is its utter unforseeability. The task, from Epicurous and Lucretius to Hegel, Badiou, and Žižek, is to comprehend contingency, to in some sense think the aleatory as Absolute.
    Generally speaking, the first consequence of this materialist axiom is that all necessity, all apparent order, regularity, and substantial duration, must be named as some type of temporary illusion (necessary or otherwise). One then has to explain the observable fact that there are, in addition to chance encounters, patterns of emergence—the emergence, that is, of complexity or of “composed chaos” –including, perhaps most importantly for us as human beings, that composed chaos that is the brain. In this way one hopes to avoid the claim that all is randomness, all is arbitrary, whilst still affirming chance, and even performing the Stoic operation of affirming chance as such, or as Deleuze put it, affirming the whole of chance, chance as a whole.
    In the Logic of Sense, Deleuze says we do not yet know how to affirm the whole of chance because we do not yet know how to play. But play what? What game affirms chance as a whole? Nietzsche and Bataille thought that it was the game of thought itself; Deleuze thought that it was the work of art. But Deleuze also left us a more archaic and more arcane suggestion. The archaic and universal game of chance is the game of divination, and divination is, as Giambattista Vico had already instructed us in the 18th century, the most archaic and perennial form of generic religious practice, at the core of universal culture itself.
    In The Logic of Sense, Deleuze explicitly says that divination grounds ethics. It is a powerful, laconic, and rarely discussed moment in Deleuze’s work. How can this be true, for a poststructuralist philosopher, that an archaic religious practice grounds the entirety of ethics? It was the goal of the stoics to naturalize ethics, and to fully embrace the absolute character of chance, the ultimate character of contingency.
    The heart of divination, modern caricatures to the contrary, is the willingness to participate in the process of the earth becoming who it is, through us. Divination names that generic process of becoming. Taken as a generic practice of earthly habitation and earthly experimentation, divination is both the model, precinct, and ultimate sense of contingency, as such. Here I mean, against Quentin Meillassoux, that divination presumes a contingency linked not to arbitrary possibility, but to emergence within an actual series of events. Meillassoux’s rather truncated version of contingency can obviously only be accessed through the canals of pure reason, construed as mathematics or as dialectics. But the actuality of the earth calls up contingency with a mind of its own, a mind we do best, and do with love, to attend to before it is too late.
    This is why divination grounds ethics, in Deleuze. It is because contingency has a specific shape. As Ibn Sina taught, there is no contingency without actuality. This is why Hegel still fails us, because the logic is still abstract, it is still based in an abstract opposition between being and nothingness. To truly theologize politics, materialize religion, and spiritualize the earth in one stroke (one cast), is to directly identify the deadlocks of finitude with infinite (intensive) reality. This is sovereignty (Bataille), this is the Future Christ (Laruelle) already present to us, the in-man. The earth is not “out there,” beyond us. It is us, but perhaps not until we take up the stones, the bones, the yarrows, and the arcane, with the intention to see within our moment, our event, that which calls us to participate in its becoming.
    I know, I know. Wish fulfillment, projection of unconscious fantasies, charlatanism . . . but divination is not fortune-telling. You’ll just have to take my word for it, for now. Suffice it to say that if you call up the spirits, they will very rarely tell you what you thought you wanted to hear. The hard, dirty, and ambiguous truth of earthly theo-politics, or political geotheology, is the truth of what I call “spiritual ordeal” in Deleuze’s work (c’est qui fonde alors c’est l’epreuve). It is the truth that the pleasure we want most, and the pleasure we need, cannot be separated from pain. Thus Norman O. Brown: “the dichotomy between pleasure and pain is socially constructed to make the economy work” (“Dionysus in 1990,” 190). Rather than criticize consumerism, Brown admitted what Žižek and Badiou deny, which is that capitalism ushers us into a glamorous and even miraculous world of things. The problem is not at all what capital offers for consumption; the problem is that we do not yet know how to consume. We lack, as Ruskin said before Brown, a science of consumption.
    This science is arguably the essence of the religion and the politics of the earth toward which Clayton and Jeff intend to lead us. But true consumption is excessive, it is sacrificial, it is too much. It is difficult for us to hear these words, in these days of austerity, in these days when concepts like subversion, let alone transgression, seem pointless political strategies when the primary task is survival, resistance and survival, occupy. But the reason we can occupy, at all, is because scarcity is an illusion (even if that illusion produces the most devastating consequences). Every scarcity is arbitrary and conditioned by temporary arrangements of power and privilege and restricted access. Thousands of pounds of food rot in the warehouses of supermarkets every day. Hundreds of properties lie vacant.
    One upshot here is that it is a mistake to ask what our political (let alone our religious) goals should be. To ask this question buys into the myth that we are not yet here, that we do not yet exist, that we must grow or evolve to become something we are not. But we are already here. The problem is not how to complete the political process or bring about the redemption promised by eschatological religion. The problem is how to see that the time is now, that we begin again, every day, “his mercies are new every morning.” But this takes courage. It takes a courage that is anti-liberal, or post-liberal, because it is not a courage of prudence. It is not a courage that preserves institutions. It is not a courage that banks on a future. It is a courage, and a love, that releases the future, embracing the pains and pleasures present to us and through which, living our deaths and dying our lives, our millennial and terrestrial ancestors are with us still. Or rather we are with them, if we would take the time to divine.

  36. Jeff Robbins Says:

    More on Josh’s wonderfully suggestive comments later, but for now I just wanted to go on the record to say for what it is worth that I reject the conflation of Malabou to Zizek. It is true that both Malabou and Zizek have both offered up a retrieval of Hegel, but neither the metaphysics nor the politics are the same. Malabou’s metaphysics is one of plenitude. You can find this in her Hegel book by the way the dialectic is punctuated by different, overlapping, and simultaneous temporarilities. There is a surplus in and of time which becomes the basis of her schematization of a politics of resistance.

  37. A Synthetic Manifesto Says:

    [...] been a great exchange about my recent book with Clayton Crockett on the blog An und für sich at http://itself.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/a-synthetic-manifesto-a-review-of-religion-politics-and-the-earth-the-new-materialism/. It includes two reviews of [...]

  38. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    I have no problem taking Christianity into account. My problem is the way the book (and Hegel and Zizek and Badiou and not at all like Taubes or Asad) suggests we have to convert or go through Christianity to get to the new.

  39. Jeff Robbins Says:

    I can see how the book can lend itself to that reading, Anthony, and for that, we have to do some rethinking. But again (and I promise, I’ll stop playing the apologist to Malabou–she is just very much fresh on my mind), with Malabou there is no conversion to get to the new. By virtue of change, the new is already arrived–always already arrived.

    With Malabou there very well may be a vaunted view of the epoch of plasticity, but I am not persuaded that the concept of plasticity is necessarily connected with Christianity.

  40. clayton crockett Says:

    Anthony, it’s a little strange to me that it gave you such a strong impression of the necessity of being Christian, since it wasn’t our intention. But I’m not denying the effect, and Joshua had a similar impression. As Jeff says, we need to think about this further. And I agree with everything Jeff affirms about Malabou.

    Thanks Josh, for such an incredible response at AAR and for posting it here. I love that our book could be the first title in your series!

  41. Anthony Paul Smith Says:

    Clayton,

    It wasn’t really until this comment thread I started to think it! With the claims about Christianity as form of religion (and the claims that seem to go in hand with that from what you’ve said here) and Christianity and capitalism having a special relationship. You did write in the book that theology should unbind itself from one particular event (death and resurrection of Christ)… and though I wanted to say “well, some theologies are already unbound and never were”, I took your point. But, the Hegel stuff seems to drag you guys back there.

  42. clayton crockett Says:

    Thanks Anthony, I think we’re trying to unbind Hegel from Hegel with Malabou, Zizek and Deleuze, but I can definitely see why you’re resisting this move here. This isn’t in the book, but I’m also trying to think about energy in terms of Chinese qi, because it works so well. Also, I love what Josh does with the Norman O. Brown stuff and Islam.


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