Divine Violence

Walter Benjamin and the Eschatology of Sovereignty

By James R. Martel

© 2012 – Routledge

168 pages

Purchasing Options:
Paperback: 9780415815246
pub: 2012-09-30
US Dollars$46.95
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Hardback: 9780415673457
pub: 2011-10-03
US Dollars$140.00
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e–Inspection Copy

About the Book

Divine Violence looks at the question of political theology and its connection to sovereignty. It argues that the practice of sovereignty reflects a Christian eschatology, one that proves very hard to overcome even by left thinkers, such as Arendt and Derrida, who are very critical of it. These authors fall into a trap described by Carl Schmitt whereby one is given a (false) choice between anarchy and sovereignty, both of which are bound within—and return us to—the same eschatological envelope. In Divine Violence, the author argues that Benjamin supplies the correct political theology to help these thinkers. He shows how to avoid trying to get rid of sovereignty (the "anarchist move" that Schmitt tells us forces us to "decide against the decision") and instead to seek to de-center and dislocate sovereignty so that it’s mythological function is disturbed. He does this with the aid of divine violence, a messianic force that comes into the world to undo its own mythology, leaving nothing in its wake. Such a move clears the myths of sovereignty away, turning us to our own responsibility in the process. In that way, the author argues,Benjamin succeeds in producing an anarchism that is not bound by Schmitt’s trap but which is sustained even while we remain dazzled by the myths of sovereignty that structure our world.

Divine Violence will be of interest to students of political theory, to those with an interest in political theology, philosophy and deconstruction, and to those who are interested in thinking about some of the dilemmas that the ‘left’ finds itself in today.

Table of Contents

PART ONE; Introduction: Sovereignty and temporality; The trap of sovereignty; Benjamin’s dissipated eschatology; PART TWO; Waiting for Justice; Forgiveness and judgment; Sovereignty de-centered: The Hebrew Republic; Conclusion: Politics without mythology.

About the Author

James Martel is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at San Francisco State University.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW000000
LAW / General
LAW052000
LAW / Jurisprudence
LAW111000
LAW / Judicial Power
PHI019000
PHILOSOPHY / Political
PHI027000
PHILOSOPHY / Movements / Deconstruction
POL010000
POLITICAL SCIENCE / History & Theory