This special issue aims to engage Karl Marx, Marxism, and critical theory in relation to the question of revolution as it intersects with political theology. Marx famously asserted that the “critique of religion was the prerequisite of all critique” as the prelude to his own critique of the critique of religion. Emphasizing the earthly foundations and efficacy of religion, Marx followed the Young Hegelians in conceiving religion as an inverted conception of the relationship between humankind and God. Instead of subjective error, Marx insisted that this inversion reflected an inverted world, where society was dominated by a seemingly sovereign state and the mute compulsion of impersonal economic forces. The inverted world had to be turned right side up through a revolution.
But in order to reveal the possibility and necessity of such revolution, a corresponding theoretical gesture, (re-)inverting the inverted theoretical representation of humankind as the product of transcendent forces beyond its control, was first required. This theoretical gesture was derived from the Young Hegelians’ critique of religion, but Marx turned it against them and G.W.F. Hegel’s account of the modern state (which Marx explicitly identified with “political theology”). Marx’s critique of religion in many ways prepared his subsequent critique of political economy, which described the commodity-form as “abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties” and capital as a self-moving and almost God-like subject.
Religion, the critique of religion, and the critique of the critique of religion all continued to play a central, albeit sometimes sublimated, role in Marx’s works and subsequent revolutionary struggles. The question is what sort of role they can and should play in contemporary left-wing movements and struggles in a post-secular world on the brink of ecological collapse. How should struggles over reproductive rights, gender, racism, and anti-blackness situate their politics with respect to the horizon of the “original sin” of primitive accumulation? Should difficulties with finding a unitary theory or synthetic politics be considered problems of wrong doctrine, where the correct exegesis of Marx or interpretation of worldly signs will finally unify the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free? In what ways might claims often put under the rubric of “identity politics” contribute to the critique of the critique of religion, and how might they complicate the seemingly eschatological underpinnings of Marx’s conception of revolution? What role does messianism play in the designation of the elect revolutionary subject and in what ways might race, gender, and class struggles point to divergences between the critique of the heavens and the critique of the earth?
We would like to invite potential contributors to explore these and any number of related questions in this special issue of Political Theology on “Marx and Revolution.” Contributions need not be limited to Marx’s works — we welcome interrogations of, for instance, Marxism and Catholicism in Latin American Liberation Theology, Adorno’s critique of occultism, the suppression of religion in the former Soviet Union, or the role that the anthropology of religion plays in capitalist critique. Some other relevant topics that contributors might address include:
- The configuration of teleology, necessity, and contingency in the revolutionary tradition
- The historiographical implications of the critique of political economy and its conception of original sin
- The historical entwinement of secularization and communism
- The theological roots and implications of Marx’s reconceptualization of alienation
- Marx’s concept of real abstraction from the critique of religion to the critique of political economy
- The relationship between conceptions of racial capitalism, racial slavery, and emancipation
- The convergences of philosophical anthropology, political ontology, and sociogeny
Please send 400 word abstracts by December 15, 2023 to both guest editors Sara-Maria Sorentino (email@example.com) and Mikkel Flohr (firstname.lastname@example.org). Contributors whose abstracts are selected will be invited to submit full articles by July 2024, with anticipated publication in 2025.