Religion in the Web of Immanence: Foucault and Thinking Otherwise after the Death of God
AbstractThis article rethinks Michel Foucault’s relation to religion by situating his engagement with the ‘death of God’ in relation to his ongoing efforts to frame critical discourse in consistently immanent terms. It argues that a certain, indirect ‘theological’ horizon is the paradoxical and problematic limit, for Foucault, of the possibility of a thoroughgoing immanent discourse in his earlier work, due to the paradoxes of the death of long-duration of God (and ‘man’). The relation of his work to religion thus emerges less as a productive question, for Foucault, than as a problem to be resolved if his critical project is to be viable. The article argues that his later work is informed by a significant re-framing of his relation to religion, signalled in comments he makes at the end of his 1978 lecture, “What is Critique?” and performed in his engagements with Christian mysticism, the ‘political spirituality’ of the Iranian revolution and early Christian practices of the self. Foucault is shown to perform a complex openness to religion as ‘other,’ which negotiates the ‘religious problem’ haunting his early work, even as it must repeatedly risk undermining his project. It is concluded that the relation to religion in Foucault’s work, less reflects resonance with aspects of a religious worldview, than it stages and clarifies the challenge of thinking otherwise immanently after the death of God.
Copyright (c) 2013 John McSweeney
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