we strange children of Abraham


At a moment when some of the theoretical gestures being inspired by old, new, or futuristic political theologies have become ineffective, Paul Kahn’s Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty is a book of extraordinary significance. Or, perhaps I should say that I think it might be a book of extraordinary significance, inasmuch as it bears a potential to do something which has remained impossible, not only for Carl Schmitt, but also for some important contemporary critics of neo-liberal political economy. I want to reflect specifically about the way this impossibility might become possible, strangely, by way of a new migration of Abraham into the territory of philosophies of freedom and difference. Throughout, Kahn constructs a stage on which is presented a complex encounter between a decidedly American revolutionary heritage, a deeply European critique of liberalism, and a repeated and self-conscious reflection on Jewish traditions. In this encounter, each figure appears bathed in mutually illuminating light, a situation which is much more difficult to stage than one might think. Just for a start, it would have been impossible for Schmitt himself to conjure a similar forcefulness for his ruminations on intractable questions of freedom with these three actors. A sporadic anti-Judaism and anti-Americanism endemic not only to Schmitt’s writings in the ‘20s but also to the larger conversation about legality, freedom, and authenticity in which his work participated saw to that.

more from Ward Blanton at The Immanent Frame here.