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Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Columbia Studies in Political Thought / Political History) Paperback – May 29, 2012


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Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Columbia Studies in Political Thought / Political History) + Putting Liberalism in Its Place + Sacred Violence: Torture, Terror, and Sovereignty (Law, Meaning, and Violence)
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Product Details

  • Series: Columbia Studies in Political Thought / Political History
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231153414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231153416
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,200,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Paul W. Kahn is a distinguished political and legal theorist who has written many important books on the American political imagination before. Yet in this case, he directly engages a thinker with whom he has slowly discovered a philosophical kinship, the great German legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt. The encounter is providential. Quite apart from providing another version of Kahn's thinking about the nature of American political life, Kahn's new book offers an extremely original and insightful proposal about what to take away from Schmitt's project of 'political theology.' This is a very attractive and imaginative project, and it is executed with brilliance and provocation.

(Samuel Moyn, Columbia University, author of The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History and coeditor of Democracy Past and Future)

Magisterial.

(Michael Ignatieff New Republic)

Kahn's work is engaging and prompts further considerations on the sacred nature of politics.

(Choice)

Kahn's book is fascinating, insightful, and a delight to read

(Peter E. Gordon Immanent Frame)

In his masterful redefinition of Carl Schmitt's work within a democratic context, Kahn's book establishes the study of political theology as the key to understanding one of the most difficult yet urgent problems of American political life -- the relationship between law and popular will. This book is essential reading for anyone interested in the roles of sovereignty and the sacred in the development of our national identity.

(David Pan, University of California, Irvine)

This is an important book, one that ought to be read by anyone interested in the relevance of Carl Schmitt's thought for contemporary democratic theory (and even more so those who believe it has none).

(Adam Thurschwell Law, Culture, and Humanities 1900-01-00)

Political Theology overflows with insights and productive provocations about politics, jurisprudence, and philosophy.

(Mark S. Weiner Telos 1900-01-00)

Review

Paul W. Kahn has written a profoundly disturbing book for profoundly disturbing times about the violence of politics and the logic of exception. This new political theology grapples with the subjects that preoccupied Carl Schmitt in his original Political Theology of 1922. Neither simply a commentary nor primarily an interpretation, Kahn's Political Theology is instead a riff, a structured improvisation on the themes of Schmitt. Kahn recasts Schmitt's enduring ideas about faith, sacrifice, and the sacred as part of the current political debate over national security and as a reminder of the way that theology threads through secular legality. He probes Schmitt's enduring appeal as well as the enduring dangers of his ideas at a time when our politics are again defined by existential threats. The new political theology shows us a way to understand both the call and the limits of law in our moment. As regular readers of Kahn's earlier books will know, no one is better situated to probe these urgent topics.

(Kim Lane Scheppele, Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School and the University Center for Human Values, Princeton University)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By C P Slayton on September 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Kahn begins and ends his review of Carl Schmitt's "Political Theology" with an expression of American exceptionalism. Where does it come from and is it justified? In the end, freedom is only found in a realist idea of political theology because liberalism, absent of the "exception to the rules" lacks freedom.

Kahn is really explaining how national interest, a state's existence, has become the highest order. It's the realist stance that butts heads with Yoder's idolatry (putting state's interests above morality is like making the state an idol). "The popular sovereign... is the mystical corpus of the state, the source of ultimate meaning for citizens (pg 121)."

My thought; Is God sovereign because He can make exception to his own laws or because He is the only one who truly understands the physical and spiritual laws of all existence? Kahn doesn't address this.

When we take the idea of sovereignty, God's sovereignty, and apply it to state power, we now get Schmitt's dictum that, "All significant concepts of modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts." And when you secularize theological concepts you may confuse the original intent. Kahn holds that political theory is not as helpful as political theology. Theology understands sacrifice while liberalism is confused by it.

Can anyone apply political theology to humanity without knowing the character of God? To say that humans have freedom because we are able to act in exception to a law is not the same as Schmitt's divine creation where God worked the ultimate exception to all laws. God is all loving AND just, all the time. Kahn barely mentions the moral dualism but it has to be implied.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D Jaros on May 16, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable book. I just have a brief comment on the Kindle edition: Contrarily to most Kindle books, it does not show the page number, only the Kindle Location Number, which unfortunately makes it unquotable. Maybe this could be fixed?
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is the best example how to read Carl Schmitt as universal political philosopher. All who are interesting in contemporary political theory extremely must read it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is a pleasure to read: profound thinking phrased in a clear and fascinating style (it parallels Schmitt in this respect, too).
A fundamental contribution to understanding Schmitt through an American mind.
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