Recontesting the Sacred: political theology as ideological method

Martin, James and Newman, Saul. 2023. Recontesting the Sacred: political theology as ideological method. Journal of Political Ideologies, ISSN 1356-9317 [Article] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

In this paper, we explore the contribution that political theology can make to the study of political ideologies. In foregrounding the interaction between theological and political ways of thinking, political theology traces the lingering presence of the sacred in secular politics. It refers not merely to religious doctrines but also to a variety of ways of registering the ‘extraordinary’ dimension in modern political orders. We sketch the development of political theological analysis from the sovereign-centric account famously proffered by Carl Schmitt to more recent versions that identify the sacred with a plurality of struggles against secular power. New types of ideological formation, we argue, can be interpreted as instances of this latter political theology, particularly those expressing what we call a radical politics of redemption that recontests the moral foundations of politics. Although highly divergent, these typically underscore the threat to a specified sacred source, make appeals to the lived experience of suffering and mobilize supporters as a model of communion seeking moral healing. We consider the example of contemporary populism to illustrate this redemptive mode of theological politics and recommend political theology, a method that can supplement the study of political ideology.

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Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Politics > Research Unit in Contemporary Political Theory (RUCPT)


6 June 2023Accepted
14 June 2023Published Online

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Date Deposited:

19 Jun 2023 15:57

Last Modified:

22 Jun 2023 10:29

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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