Politics and the Sacred

Politics and the Sacred

by Harald Wydra


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This path-breaking book argues that practices of the sacred are constitutive of modern secular politics. Following a tradition of enquiry in anthropology and political theory, it examines how limit situations shape the political imagination and collective identity. As an experiential and cultural fact, the sacred emerges within, and simultaneously transcends, transgressive dynamics such as revolutions, wars or globalisation. Rather than conceive the sacred as a religious doctrine or a metaphysical belief, Wydra examines its adaptive functions as origins, truths and order which are historically contingent across time and transformative of political aspirations. He suggests that the brokenness of political reality is a permanent condition of humanity, which will continue to produce quests for the sacred, and transcendental political frames. Working in the spirit of the genealogical mode of enquiry, this book examines the secular sources of political theologies, the democratic sacred, the communist imagination, European political identity, the sources of human rights and the relationship of victimhood to new wars.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781107428102
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 09/30/2017
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x (d)

About the Author

Harald Wydra is a Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge. He has previously taught political science at the University of Regensburg, held visiting fellowships at the �cole des hautes �tudes en sciences sociales (Paris) and the National University of Australia (Canberra), and was Visiting Professor at the University of Paris Ouest Nanterre-La D�fense. He is the founding Editor of the journal International Political Anthropology and his books include Continuities in Poland's Permanent Transition (2001), Communism and the Emergence of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Democracy and Myth in Russia and Eastern Europe (2008, co-edited with Alexander W�ll) and Breaking Boundaries: Varieties of Liminality (2015, co-edited with Agnes Horvath and Bj�rn Thomassen).

Table of Contents

Introduction: the sacred and the political; 1. The extraordinary and the political imagination; 2. The politics of transcendence; 3. Secular sources of political theologies; 4. Democracy and the sacred; 5. The power of symbols: Communism and beyond; 6. Generations of European imaginations; 7. The spell of humanity; 8. Victim and new wars; Epilogue: rationalities of the sacred.

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