For decades now, we seem to have been living in “end”: the end of history, the end of ideology, the end of theory. Parties nominally of the left (“New Labour”, “Wall St Democrats”) joined those of the right to enforce “democracy” abroad and a “third way” of free market reliance at home. Ideologues and theorists had ceded decision-making to technocrats, and no one need worry about such esoteric matters as justice or fairness, since all we had to do was sit back and let a properly-tuned market deliver optimal outcomes to everybody.
Clayton Crockett’s Deleuze Beyond Badiou is more than a commentary on Badiou’s reading of Deleuze or a defense of Deleuze. It is, rather, a transdisciplinary work that crosses the domains of theology, philosophy, and politics through a reading of the relationship between Deleuze and Badiou. Crockett’s goal, however, is not primarily descriptive but constructive, in that he uses the relationship between the two philosophers as a means for thinking otherwise.
In a recent piece about Les Misérables, which is in general a fine study of the dynamics of law and grace in the film, Michael W. Hannon worries that a view of the state, and the political realm more broadly, as an unnatural institution is insufficient for a vibrant and vigorous engagement of this realm, or as he puts it “our faith in law.” Hannon aptly notes that Valjean, one for whom “it seemed as though he had for a soul the book of the natural law,” is the ideal in Hugo’s work. Valjean’s remarkable conversion, for instance, results in a situation in which he recognizes a greater sense of moral obligation rather than less.
And so it is to Jerusalem that Jesus must go. Why Jerusalem? How would the scene have played out differently if the Pharisees, in their plotting, had simply arranged to have Jesus murdered on the road – on his way to the city? What if Jesus had never come to Jerusalem? To the temple? What if he died and even was resurrected while preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom in Galilee? What’s so special about Jerusalem?
Herod was scared of a newborn baby. This basic fact of the Epiphany story bears the key to understanding its political implications. Herod’s fear reveals something of the anxiety that accompanies absolute power. In the political context of the Roman Empire, which supported Herod’s control of Judea, the continuance of power depended on the political elites capacity to convince people.
It is a challenge to reflect on politics and advent together. As advent emerges and we begin to anticipate the emergence of God’s presence into the world anew, as we expect the child who taught peace and preached liberation for the poor and oppressed, I cast my eyes on the political landscape and struggle to glimpse what might be breaking forth with new life. Perhaps this is a problem with how we conceptualize the birth of Jesus, as a grand cosmic event, an episode of a preordained salvation history, the inauguration of a new kingdom of peace on earth. There is another element to this extraordinary story, its ordinariness. Jesus is born in a Galilean backwater, to an unwed teen mother, lost in a crowd of travelers. Jeremiah prophesied to his ancient community about a time when justice and righteousness will emerge into history. We still await the fulfillment of this prophesy. But refracting this vision through the circumstances of Jesus’ birth will perhaps teach us to look for this hope in unexpected places…