Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty

Overview

In this strikingly original work, Paul W. Kahn rethinks the meaning of political theology. In a text innovative in both form and substance, he describes an American political theology as a secular inquiry into ultimate meanings sustaining our faith in the popular sovereign.

Kahn works out his view through an engagement with Carl Schmitt's 1922 classic, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. He forces an engagement with Schmitt's four chapters, offering ...

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Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty

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Overview

In this strikingly original work, Paul W. Kahn rethinks the meaning of political theology. In a text innovative in both form and substance, he describes an American political theology as a secular inquiry into ultimate meanings sustaining our faith in the popular sovereign.

Kahn works out his view through an engagement with Carl Schmitt's 1922 classic, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. He forces an engagement with Schmitt's four chapters, offering a new version of each that is responsive to the American political imaginary. The result is a contemporary political theology. As in Schmitt's work, sovereignty remains central, yet Kahn shows how popular sovereignty creates an ethos of sacrifice in the modern state. Turning to law, Kahn demonstrates how the line between exception and judicial decision is not as sharp as Schmitt led us to believe. He reminds readers that American political life begins with the revolutionary willingness to sacrifice and that both sacrifice and law continue to ground the American political imagination. Kahn offers a political theology that has at its center the practice of freedom realized in political decisions, legal judgments, and finally in philosophical inquiry itself.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Law, Culture, and Humanities - Adam Thurschwell
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).
Choice
Kahn's work is engaging and prompts further considerations on the sacred nature of politics.
Telos - Mark S. Weiner
Political Theology overflows with insights and productive provocations about politics, jurisprudence, and philosophy.
Muslim World Book Review
Kahn...has produced a biblically inspired reading of [Carl] Schmitt.
Samuel Moyn
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.
New Republic - Michael Ignatieff
Magisterial.
Immanent Frame - Peter E. Gordon
Kahn's book is fascinating, insightful, and a delight to read
David Pan
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.
New Republic
Magisterial.

— Michael Ignatieff

Choice

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

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

— Peter E. Gordon

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Paul W. Kahn is Robert W. Winner Professor of Law and the Humanities and director of the Orville H. Schell Jr. Center for Human Rights at Yale Law School. He is the author of many books, including Putting Liberalism in Its Place; Out of Eden: Adam and Eve and the Problem of Evil and Sacred Violence: Torture, Terror, and Sovereignty.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

Foreword, by Dick HowardAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: Why Political Theology Again1. Definition of Sovereignty2. The Problem of Sovereignty as the Problem of the Legal Form and of the Decision3. Political Theology4. On the Counterrevolutionary Philosophy of the StateConclusion: Political Theology and the End of DiscourseNotesIndex

Columbia University Press

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