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Hegel, Political Theology and Apocalypticism

LYNCH, THOMAS,JOHN (2014) Hegel, Political Theology and Apocalypticism. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 23 January 2019.


This thesis argues that new readings of Hegel’s philosophical system generate a post-secular, philosophical political theology. This political theology is able to engage with the apocalyptic elements of the Christian tradition in order to understand the dual function of religion: the cultivation of social solidarity and the annihilation of the present world.

After an initial discussion of Hegel’s role in the development of political theology and the current divisions in Hegel scholarship, this study turns to the significance of Hegel’s understanding of religion as representation. In particular it focuses on the implications of the ‘non-metaphysical’ reading of Hegel. In this reading, religion is not concerned with an external, transcendent deity, but represents the emergence of a self-conscious, self-determining community. While drawing on this shift in the nature of religion, this thesis argues that the ‘non-metaphysical’ reading subordinates religion to the state, diminishing religion’s role in social critique. This subordination to the state can be corrected by introducing apocalypticism as a representation of the negative moment of Hegel’s philosophical system, resulting in a greater emphasis on contingency and contradiction. This expanded understanding of religion is the basis of an apocalyptic, Hegelian political theology.

Precedent for this form political theology is found in the work of Jacob Taubes. In addition to analysing Taubes’s explicit discussions of Hegel, this study argues that Hegel’s philosophy of religion draws out the methodology behind Taubes’s intervention. Having drawn out these underlying Hegelian aspects, affinities between Taubes and contemporary work on Hegel becomes apparent. In particular, Catherine Malabou’s understanding of plasticity is shown to closely parallel Taubes’s understanding of apocalypse. Reading Malabou and Taubes together results in a political theology of plastic apocalypticism. This political theology is a model of a post-secular theology operating, beyond the contradiction between philosophy and theology.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Hegel; Ernst Bloch; Jacob Taubes; Catherine Malabou; apocalypticism; Robert Pippin; political theology; theology; philosophy of religion;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2014
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:23 Jan 2014 12:30

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