Political Theology

In Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty (Columbia University Press, 2011), Paul W. Kahn contends that American political experience is incomprehensible outside the terms of political theology—not because the United States is, or ever was, a “Christian nation,” but because the state “creates and maintains its own sacred space and history.” Engaging Carl Schmitt’s 1922 Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty as a basis from which to explore how America’s faith in the popular sovereign generates an ethos of sacrifice and a logic of exception that structure the nation’s political life and jurisprudence in ways that have become particularly visible in the post-9/11 world, Kahn’s argument raises questions of pressing concern:

What is political theology and how does it function in a liberal constitutional order, in America or elsewhere?

Can political theology form the basis for a “secular” mode of inquiry into politics and society?

What resources does it offer for understanding freedom and its relation to law and justice?