New Ontological and Theological Imaginaries in Political Theory and Democracy

This paper analyzes three seemingly disparate but related developments in contemporary Euro-American political thought: political ontology, critical political theology, and new formulations of radical democracy, all of which embrace clear ontological imaginaries. As I walk through each genre, I demonstrate how, when taken together, they cultivate a new mood that signifies an awareness of the ontological and theological elements in one’s own thinking. I argue that this awareness eventually prefigures new imaginaries for radical democracy. In the end, the normative hope is that this new development will engender more generous ethico-political formations by enabling a deeper sensibility toward difference and otherness, including the non-Western other. The first section examines how ontology has recently come to the fore in these two traditions in the form of post-foundational ideas. The basic trend noted here is how several thinkers now maintain the unavoidability of ontology in political thinking as opposed to anti-foundationalist views. But the idea of ground here is a far more elusive, non-determinative one that also defies foundationalist premises. I present the North American versions through White’s “weak” and “strong” ontology dichotomy while focusing on the European representatives of this streak through Marchart’s conceptualization of post-foundationalism, which draws on the distinction between politics and the political. Next, I look at how the theological element is being increasingly acknowledged as an ineradicable element of political theory. As a result, many political theorists and political theologians have converged to articulate this theological residue together. As regards the field of political theology, this is where one finds the emancipatory thinking of critical political theologians, especially liberation theology. As for political theory, I look at three theological concepts that have entertained a worthwhile afterlife: mythos, messianicity, and theodicy. I will demonstrate how these particular concepts can be productively used in political theory. As a case in point, I will pay particular attention in this section to Jacque Derrida’s concept of “democracy-to-come.” Coming to terms with our thinking’s ontological and theological elements is most meaningful when we consider the new imaginaries of radical democracy. My concern here is to underline how radical democracy’s ontological dimension has gradually acquired a crucial significance. In addition to their ontological critique of liberal democracy, radical democratic thinkers are now concentrating more on the ontological conception of democracy as an infinite ideality. My overall goal in this article is to show that a new mood is emerging in Euro-American political thinking. Inasmuch as our partners are more conscious of their ontologies and the operative mythoi in their own political thinking, our dialogical engagement will be more amenable to political arrangements th

Halil İbrahim YENİGÜN
Conditions of Modernity, Shari’a of Liberalism

The question of what the proper relationship between Islam, politics, and the state should be is a critical one that modern Islamic political thought has been grappling with over the last two centuries and that still stirs intense debates. Abdullahi An-Na’im develops an answer to this question in his book titled, Islam and the Secular State: Negotiating the Future of Shari’a, which offers Rawlsian political liberalism and secular state as a framework that separates Shari’a from the state but incorporates it into public and political life. This paper develops a critical reading of An-Na’im’s proposal. It argues that An-Na’im’s notion of civic reason restricts the sphere of the political, that his conception of the neutral secular state authorizes the state to determine the forms and limits of ‘proper’ religion in ways that further consolidates the state’s sovereign practices over religion and society, and that his conception of political liberalism as a mechanism necessarily relies on philosophical liberalism in producing an interpretation of Shari’a in accordance with liberalism as well as subjects who adopt it. Besides, the paper argues that An-Na’im falls short of substantiating his claim about why particular institutions such as constitutionalism and citizenship necessitate a secular state. It also argues that the hierarchical relationship An-Na’im establishes between the liberal interpretation of human rights and Shari’a rests on an internally contradictory logic. After discussing such paradoxes the paper goes on to provide a critical reading of An-Na’im’s politics of cultural translation particularly in terms of its relationship with the structures of power within liberal global governance. The paper observes that An-Na’im opts for adapting Islamic tradition and Shari’a to liberalism in a way that embraces global power relationships as its positive ground. An-Na’im negotiates the future of Shari’a by taking liberal democracy as the reference point, but by so doing, the paper claims, he fails to consider the potentials of taking the resources of Islamic tradition to negotiate liberalism. The rest of the article provides a comparative analysis of An-Na’im’s model with Talal Asad’s critical reading of his father Muhammad Asad’s book titled The Principles of State and Government in Islam as an example of an alternative construal of the relationship between Islam, politics, and the state. It suggests that while Asad parallels An-Na’im in criticizing the concept of the Islamic state and in differentiating politics from the state and locating Islam in the former; Asad, unlike An-Na’im, does not take liberalism’s constructs of public reason, human rights, and secular state as the reference point for Islamic tradition. Instead, he provides the sketches of an understanding that seeks to introduce Islam into public life through a critique of the extant relations of power. By so doing, the paper suggests, he goes beyond the political liberal idea of a s

Self, Society and State in Liberal Communitarianism

Liberal communitarianism develops its position by reflecting upon the points of conflict and consensus, not only between liberalism and communitarianism, but also between different variations of the communitarian theory. Aiming to reconcile liberalism and communitarianism, liberal communitarianism tries to articulate a morality-centered approach to overcome the tensions between these two theories. It thus deals with the questions of how to examine and treat the obstacles for the moral development of the individual, society and different institutions; and how to prepare the ground for constructing a social and political order based on mutual interaction and cooperation. This article aims to examine the liberal-communitarian conception of self, society and state in general. From a liberal-communitarian perspective, individual choices gain moral worth and are respectable only if they contribute to the moral flourishing of the individual and society. Yet such a contribution is bound to the fulfillment of a precondition: The individual choice has to be the result of a reflection on how the key values of human life (freedom, reason, authenticity and responsibility) can be balanced with each other. According to Philip Selznick, one of the founders of the liberal-communitarian thinking, developing a sound social theory and achieving social integration depends on the level of theoretical and practical success in the following tasks: (1) Creating a reasonable balance among the key values of social life (historicity, identity, mutuality, plurality, autonomy, participation and integration), which hold the communities and the society intact. (2) Balancing the conflicting viewpoints that give social life and thought its true nature, and which are driven by either one of the contrasting poles of segmental vs. core participation, particularism vs. universalism, civility vs. piety, and critical vs. conventional morality. In liberal communitarianism, in order to develop a policy in harmony with social structures, the state should pay close attention to the proportions of the various communities established around different elements of identity (such as language, religion, ethnicity etc.) within the society, but at the same time it should not neglect to accept each one of them as valuable in itself. The state thus should support these communities for sustaining their lives in accordance with their beliefs and values without violating the principle of equality. The principle of benevolent neutrality is more appropriate than the idea of a strict wall of seperation for providing a framework for a sound relationship between religion and state. However, the cooperation of religion and state has in any case to take place within the boundaries drawn by the principles of state neutrality and secularity. In this article, the unique aspects of the liberal-communitarian position on these topics will be introduced by comparing them with the statist, conservative, an

Muhammed İkbal İMAMOĞLU

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