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A post-secular faith: Connolly on pluralism and evil

Martin, James. 2010. A post-secular faith: Connolly on pluralism and evil. In: , ed. Democracy and Pluralism: The political thought of William Connolly. London: Routledge, pp. 129-143. ISBN 9780415473507 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

In his 2002 State of the Union Address, US President George W. Bush warned his audience of an ‘axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world’. It is tempting to roll one’s eyes in contemptuous disbelief at this now familiar refrain. Yet, however we may react to Bush’s terminology, it is certain that we cannot help but react. That phrase, of course, was calculated precisely to have an immediate, practical effect by dividing the world and forcing us to take sides. For few notions have the visceral, rhetorical power of the term ‘evil’. Even when we oppose its use, we often react with the very gut-instinct such notions are designed to activate. Whilst, on occasion, philosophers accuse each other of ‘category errors’, perhaps even of some disgraceful ‘performative contradiction’, these complaints barely come close to the sheer normative force of vocabularies that invoke religious terms.

It might be assumed, then, that a serious, emancipatory politics cannot deal in such charged concepts without collapsing into a potentially barbarous mysticism. Surely the language of evil lends itself too easily to the apocalyptic visions of reactionary conservativism to be of value for those with progressive goals? Yet William E. Connolly is one of a number of contemporary political philosophers who has looked to the vocabulary of religion and, indeed, to the term evil in order to explore the possibilities for a radical, democratic politics. How he does this and how we might respond to the challenge to think pluralism in relation to evil are the focus of this chapter.

Item Type:

Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Politics

Dates:

DateEvent
2010Published

Item ID:

3451

Date Deposited:

19 Aug 2010 08:50

Last Modified:

10 Jul 2018 15:21

URI:

http://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/3451

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