[SydPhil] UWS philosophy seminar Daniel McLoughlin, Sovereignty, Economic Theology, and the Early Modern State.

Jessica Whyte J.Whyte at uws.edu.au
Tue May 13 14:17:26 AEST 2014

The Writing and Society Research Centre and Philosophy @ UWS present:

Daniel McLoughlin, University of New South Wales, Faculty of Law.

TITLE: Sovereignty, Economic Theology, and the Early Modern State.

DATE/TIME: Wed, May 14th. 3.30-5.00

PLACE: University of Western Sydney, Bankstown Campus, Building 3, Room 3.G.27  [How to get to Bankstown Campus]<http://www.uws.edu.au/campuses_structure/cas/campuses/bankstown>

In his 'Monotheism as a Political Problem,' the theologian Erik Peterson develops a devastating critique of Carl Schmitt’s Political Theology.  The modern notion of sovereignty cannot, he argues, be a secularisation of the theological notion of a singular and omnipotent lawgiver because the Christian God is threefold: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Giorgio Agamben’s The Kingdom and the Glory rescues Schmitt from Peterson’s critique by showing that the fundamental task of Trinitarian theology has always been to reconcile the singularity and  multiplicity of God – or, to put this in more political terms, his sovereignty over the world with his government of the world.  According to Agamben, then, the political paradigm that Christian theology transmits to modernity is that of a ‘bipolar machine’ comprised of a transcendent sovereignty and a governmental praxis that puts this sovereign will into effect.  Agamben’s own analysis of the secularisation of this paradigm focuses upon its influence on the emergence of liberal democratic ideas such as Rousseau’s general will and Adam Smith’s invisible hand.   This paper develops an analysis of a piece of political history, which is largely missing from Agamben’s work, by using his account of the bipolar machine as a lens through which to read Schmitt’s concern with the theological inheritance of the early modern sovereign state.  The paper begins by outlining Agamben's reading of Trinitarian theology, before examining the relationship between this theological legacy and the modern theory of sovereignty, and illustrating the intimate relationship between sovereignty and government in the account of monarchical absolutism developed by Schmitt and Foucault.

BIO: Daniel is Vice-Chancellor's Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales. He holds a PhD in Philosophy from UNSW and a Bachelor of Arts/Law from Macquarie University. Before joining the University of New South Wales, he worked as a lecturer in the Adelaide Law School, University of Adelaide. Daniel is a legal theorist working in the critical and continental traditions of thought. He has published on sovereignty, political ontology, government, and political crises, with a particular emphasis on the work of Giorgio Agamben and Carl Schmitt. His other research interests include Marxist state theory, the politics and theory of human rights, public law theory, and the impact of neo-liberalism on the state. He is currently completing a book manuscript on Agamben's legal and political thought. His post-doctoral research project is entitled ‘Liberalism, The Politics of Emergency and the Crisis of Law’ and draws on Schmitt, Foucault and Marx to theorise the relationship between crisis politics, the neo-liberal state, and the transformation of the legal order.

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Dr Jessica Whyte
Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Social Analysis
Parramatta Campus, EQ.1.31
University of Western Sydney
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith  NSW  2751
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