Manifesto of the Critical Theory of Society and Religion
by Rudolf Siebert (Studies in Critical Social Sciences: Brill
Academic) A wonderful summa of an intensely lived social and
religious life. Siebert provides seminal insights derived from the
Social theory of the Frankfort school and grounded in neo-Kantian
German idealism. This is fused with the new political theology
grounded in a vision of human rights and universal justice as the
legal and ethical measure human sciences and institutions. The work,
though daunting at first sight, actually makes a wonderful primer
for students seeking a unified vision of social order that is not
antagonistic to the effect of transcendent in human relations.
A wonderful summa of an intensely lived social and religious life. Siebert provides seminal insights derived from the Social theory of the Frankfort school and grounded in neo-Kantian German idealism. This is fused with the new political theology grounded in a vision of human rights and universal justice as the legal and ethical measure human sciences and institutions. The work, though daunting at first sight, actually makes a wonderful primer for students seeking a unified vision of social order that is not antagonistic to the effect of transcendent in human relations.The Manifesto develops further the Critical Theory of Religion intrinsic to the Critical Theory of Society of the Frankfurt School into a new paradigm of the Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy and Theology of Religion. Its central theme is the theodicy problem. The Manifesto approaches this theme in the framework of comparative religion and critical political theology in a narrative and discursive fashion. In search of a solution to the theodicy problem, the Manifesto explores trends in civil society toward Alternative Future I (the Totally Administered Society), Alternative Future II (the Militarized Society,), and Alternative Future III (the Reconciled Society) in the horizon of the longing for the Wholly Other as perfect justice and unconditional love. Likewise trends in alternative futures of religion are characterizes as I: Religious Fundamentalism, II: Modern and Postmodern Secularism, and III: The Open Dialectic between the religious and secular, toward a possible reconciliation. Toward that goal it relies on both the critical theory of society as developed by Max Horkheimer, Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Theodor W. Adorno, and others, and on the new political theology of Johannes B. Metz, Helmut Peukert, and Edmund Arens. Students and professors who are interested in psychology and social psychology, sociology and anthropology, philosophy and theology and comparative religion in public and private, secular and religious universities and colleges.
Contents: Acknowledgements Introduction 1. The Critical
Theory of Society 2. The Neo-Conservative Trend Turn 3. The
Three-fold Critical Theory of Religion 4. From Quantitative to
Qualitative Infinity 5. Theory Formation 6. From Traditional to
Critical Theory 7. Universal Pragmatic 8. Truth and Justification
9. Toward a New Model Appendices A. Mottoes, Impulses and Motives B. Special Considerations and Inspirations C. The Five-World Macro Model D. The Fundamental Potentials, Categories, and Spheres of Actions E. Heuristic Model of the History of Religions F. Antagonisms of Modern Civil Society and their Resolutions G. Possible Alternative Futures 10. External and Internal Perspective 11. Conscious-making and Rescuing Critique 12. Necrophilous and Biophilous Elements 13. From the Jus Talionis to the Golden Rule 14. Religion and Revolution 15. Concrete Utopia 16. Religion in Socialist Society 17. From Magic to the Dialectical Notion 18. Truth as Meaning of Language 19. Religion in Liberal Society 20. New York: The Capital of Liberalism 21. Religion in Fascist Society 22. The Owl of Minerva 23. Critical Religion: Against Aggression, Force, Violence, and Terror 24. The Jewish-German Tragedy 25. From the Westphalian Peace to the Bourgeois and Socialist Revolutions 26. The Expansion and Contradiction of God 27. The Desperate Hope and the Rescue of the Hopeless 28. Trust in the Eternal One
Epilogue: God, Freedom, and Immortality References Index
Excerpt: This three volume Manifesto of the Critical Theory of Society and Religion: The Wholly Other, Liberation, Happiness, and the Rescue of the Hopeless is the magnum opus of the life and work of Rudolf J. Siebert, Professor of Religion and Society in the Comparative Religion Department at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan. As such, this work is the manifestation of over 50 years of Siebert's academic teaching, research, and world-recognized scholarship in the field of the famed Frankfurt School's critical theory of society. However, this work is much more than just an academic treatise on the subject as it also incorporates and is illustrated by the lived narrative of his and his family members' experiences, struggles, sufferings and longings for a more reconciled, just, rational, merciful, equitable, moral and peaceful future society in the socio-historical context of modern civil society. In terms of Th. W Adorno, Siebert gives a "working definition" of the critical theory as a social theory that comprehends modern civil society as an antagonistic social totality based on the non-equivalent exchange process through which the society produces and reproduces itself. From this critical perspective, the resulting antagonisms of modern civil society are the consequences of the capitalistic production and reproduction system wherein the capitalist class systematically appropriates the surplus value/profit that is collectively produced by the working classes. It is this concrete, historical struggle, in both theory and praxis, that seeks in hope and longing to transcend the systemic antagonisms and the resulting dehumanization and barbarity of the modern globalizing neo-liberal/neo-conservative capitalist society for what Siebert has named "alternative Future III"—the reconciled, free, and classless future society and for the entirely Other than both nature and history—that is the beginning, the inherent historical dynamic and purpose of the entire critical theory.
As Siebert states, "The critical theory cannot be understood without its historical genesis and context" [p. 5]. As he relates in Chapter 21, in 1942 at the age of 15 while he was a member of the Catholic Youth Movement, a student at the Protestant-humanistic Lessing Gymnasium in Frankfurt
and just before he was conscripted into the German Luftwaffe to man the anti-aircraft batteries against the allied bombing of German cities, Siebert was introduced to the great Christian idealist and humanist G. W. F. Hegel by the communist Muller as they watched the bombing of Mainz by the British air force. Müller's brief introduction to the dialectical idealism of the Protestant Hegel to the young Catholic Siebert in the midst of the horror and insanity of war opened the door to his life work of research not only into the works of Hegel but also those of Immanuel Kant and the bourgeois Enlighteners, of Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Arthur Schopenhauer, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Franz Kafka, Bertholt Brecht, et al.
Yet, these modern critical philosophical, political economic, psychological, and cultural theories are only one facet of the dynamic historical and future-oriented origins of the Critical Theory. As Siebert explains, a critical predecessor to these theories and an essential yet all too often missed dynamic force of the entire critical theory is religion, particularly, the prophetic, Messianic, eschatological/apocalyptic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam and their critique of social injustice and class domination in the spirit of and longing for the creation of a more reconciled future society and beyond that, for the history ending advent of the God of the Exodus and of the longed for Messianic future wherein the "wolf will live with the lamb [Isaiah 11]; where weapons of violence, war and death will be transformed into instruments that provide life and happiness [Micah 4]; not for the "Alpha" but for the "Omega" God of a New Creation [Revelation 21]; for the Christian mystics' "God beyond god"-the ineffable, unimaginable, "totally/wholly Other" [die Sehnsucht nacht dem ganz Anderen-Max Horkheimer/Adorno]. In his explication of this critical theory of society and religion Manifesto, Siebert also incorporates both a biblical scholarship as well as a profound comprehension and command of the works of such theologians, mystics and Christian humanists as Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm of Canterbury, Joachim of Fiore, Meister Eckhart, Jacob Böhme, Thomas Münzer, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Maimonides, the Kabbalah, Gershom Scholem, Walter Dirks, Eugon Kogon, Karl Barth, Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Rahner, Johannes Baptist Metz, Jurgen Moltmann, Dorothee Sae, Helmut Peukert, Edmund Arens, et al. As will be seen throughout the 28 chapters of this work, the past theological, philosophical, socio-political, psychological, cultural and everyday life struggles against the forces of exploitation, oppression, fear and death in the hope, longing and commitment for a better future world are determinately negated-negated, preserved, and advanced-into the critical theory of society and religion. As Siebert-who is the author of this field of research known as the critical theory of religion-explains, it is this determinate negation of religion that is a fundamental dynamic factor of the entire critical theory.
For the critical theorists-Horkheimer, Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Erich Fromm, et al.-the religious notions of and longing for the radically transcendent "wholly Other" than either nature or history could and can no longer be expressed in their religious form. For the critical theorists, in terms of the bourgeois, Marxist, and Freudian enlightenment movements, religion per se has become socially irrelevant and obsolete in the face of the increasing "irrational rationality" and horror of modern civil society. Historically, the truthfulness and viability of a religion rises and falls according to its ability to answer the "theodicy" question: How does a religion justify its proclamation of God and of the divine in the midst of the suffering of innocent victims on the "slaughter-bench" of nature and history? As the critical theorist Adorno and many others have expressed, the prophetic religions' proclamation of God as almighty, all-loving, providentially-liberationally-redemptively involved in the history of the world, who will apocalyptically come "to make the whole creation new" disintegrates at the very name of Auschwitz and all the insanity and horror throughout history that that name symbolizes even to the present, i.e. the hundreds of thousands of innocent victims in war of aggression in Iraq, the torture and murder in the U.S. prisons of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, the genocide in Darfur, etc. In terms of Jurgen Habermas, there has been and continues to be no divine "counter-movement" to the suffering of the innocent nor to their prayers for redemption, and because of this religion as a practical solution to this horror is deemed obsolete.
However, the critical theorists do not follow the either-or methodology of positivism that abstractly negates and thereby discards religion and its expression of the infinite and of transcendence. Rather, in terms of a materialistic inversion of the Hegelian dialectical methodology, the critical theorists determinately negate the mythological form and metaphysical expressions of religion so as to allow religion's longing for that which is totally Other than the natural world and human history to be expressed concretely in humanity's cry and longing for transcendence and redemption from the socio-historically and naturally produced destruction to migrate into its own secular critical theory and praxis. Thus, by means of the determinate negation of the pre-modern dialectical tradition of the Jewish and Christian religions as well as of the modern thought of Kant,
Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, et al., the critical theorists developed a theory of religion that was a dynamic and integral part of the entire project of the critical theory of society. Their dialectical theory of religion presented a new, liberating, and secular reformulation of the form and content of religion, particularly that of the prophetic Judeo-Christian religions, into a modern, secular theory and praxis for the transformation of an increasingly one-dimensional, capitalist class dominated, unjust and oppressive modern society toward a more humane, reasonable, emancipatory future society. In a historical materialistic form, the critical theorists sought the dialectical sublimation of the human, emancipatory content of religion into the secular form of the critical theory (Horkheimer, 1972c, pp. 129-131). As Siebert explains, without the inclusion of this dialectical materialist theory of religion as an essential dynamic element of the entire critical theory, the continued discourse on the critical theory and its goal of human enlightenment and emancipation in a better future society is in danger of being distorted.
According to Siebert's analysis, there are three forms of the one critical theory of religion that is driven by this dialectical method of determinate negation. The first form is that of Horkheimer's and Adorno's radicalization of the second and third commandments of the Jewish Decalogue in which the totally Other is not to be imaged or named. This is the substance of the critical theory as "idology critique," whereby nothing finite can be made or identified with the infinite. The second version of the critical theory of religion comes from the work of Adorno and Benjamin in their development of the critical theory in terms of an inverted, cipher theology, which focuses on the suffering of the innocent victims of society and nature and on their cries and longing for redemption and for that which is wholly Other than what is. The third expression comes from the work of Jurgen Habermas and development of his theory of communicative action.
Particularly for the first two forms of this theory, the religious wholly Other is materialistically inverted or, in other words, is determinately negated into the concrete expressions or "ciphers" of human longing that loneliness, human abandonment, alienation, injustice, exploitation, violence, terror, torture, murder, wars, etc, will not have the last word in history. As Horkheimer stated, this longing and hope certainly is not a scientific wish. This determinate negation of religion into the critical theory is the dynamic substance of the negative, inverse or cipher theology of the entire critical theory, through which the critical theorists searched for the traces of the lost God, the totally Other, in nature, society, history, cul ture, even into the smallest and seemingly most meaningless expressions, e.g. Adorno's bus ticket, Benjamin's trash/rag picker, Kafka's image of a picture's negative or black edge indicating that which is "other" or "nonidentical" to the given status quo. As Adorno has stated, it is this inverted, negative, cipher theological perspective that the standpoint of redemption can be produced from which all things can be contemplated and thus, revealed in all its despair and distortion "as it will appear one day in the messianic light." This inverted theology was something on which, Adorno always insisted and into which he would have happily seen both his and Walter Benjamin's work dissolve.
It is through this dialectical theory of religion that the critical theory as a whole stands in anamnestic, present, and proleptic solidarity and mimesis with the innocent victims of nature and history, particularly that history which has spawned the present day catastrophes of globalizing of neo-liberal and neoconservative capitalism, as it seeks in hope and longing for the revolutionary creation of a more reconciled future society. However, unlike the idealistic dialectics of Hegel and others, which proclaim to know the positive outcome of the struggle to negate nature's and history's negativity, the critical theory is driven by a negative dialectics, through which the struggle to negate the negative is not a given, nor is it granted that anything positive will develop out of such negativity. This negative dialectic is rooted in, expressive of, and illustrates the first form of the critical theory of religion-the radicalization of the second and third commandment of the Decalogue. Thus, in terms of this negative dialectic as well as the science of Ossip Flechtheim's Futurology, for the critical theory of society and religion there are three alternative futures toward which history can develop. As Siebert explains, alternative Future I of the globalization of modern civil society and its antagonisms is the totally administered, cybernetic, instrumentalized, functionalized, computerized, "signal" society, in which human love and hope for that which is other than the dominant status quo is meaningless as people are reduced to being cogs of the established social system. This future expresses the possibility of the antagonisms of modern capitalist society being imperialistically finalized with no alternative to the advantage of the world wide capitalist class and the national power they wield. The social antagonisms of Cultural expressions of this dystopia abound as expressed in Yevgeny Zamyatin's We, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, George Orwell's 1984, Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, and in more contemporary images of a totally controlled and dehumanized future society in the Matrix and V for Vendetta. However, there are also and there have been far more realistic his-
torical overtures to this future in the world wars of the 20th century, the so-called Cold War and its various "police actions" conducted in Third world or "peripheral" countries, as well as the development of the system and structures of neoliberal and neoconservative globalization through such policies as the Structural Adjustment Programs/Poverty Reduction Strategy of the International Monetary Fund, the neoconservative preventive war and regime change strategy announced in The National Security Strategy of the United States of America of 2002 of which the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was its first test case, the undermining of the U.S. Bill of Rights and of habeas corpus by the U.S. Patriot Act of 2001.
Alternative Future II announces the possible "resolution" of the existing class-dominated, system antagonisms of modernity through the creation of a totally militarized society that aims at and prepares for always new conventional wars or civil wars and finally, at wars with weapons of mass destruction with the consequent ecological and human carnage. Regretfully, preparation in the direction of this future has been and continues to be laid, again in terms of the globalizing neo-conservative imperialism of the United States along with other supporting first-world nations. As Siebert states, both of these futures must be resisted at all costs. There is, however, another alternative future life and world rescuing possibility Alternative Future III is the very real possibility of creating the realm of freedom on the bases of the realm of natural necessity; a global society of reconciled humanity, wherein human autonomy and solidarity are mutually supportive of each other; in which the relationships among all human beings would be
"characterized by what Bertolt Brecht and Jurgen Habermas have called the friendly living together of human beings; in which a communicative or discourse ethics would be practiced; in which truth would count again and not only correctness; in which instrumental action and rationality would be balanced by communicative action and rationality; in which nationalism would be overcome once and for all; in which naturalism would be mediated through a transformed religion; in which sensuous impression would continue to lead to symbolical expression; in which humanity would ethically codetermine its own nature through interventions into its own genome; in which a communicative-rationally planned development would be predominant; in which the other would be included; in which autonomy and solidarity would be reconciled; in which subject and object, thinking and being, human need and satisfaction, reason and reality facticity and validity would concretely have identified themselves with each other; in which historical materialism would be reconstructed and realized; and in which the totally Other of history would be discovered in history" (Siebert, Manifesto, Volume I, Chapter 1, Appendices G).
As stated as both the theoretical and practical tasks in this Manifesto, it is this alternative Future III that is purpose and goal of the entire critical theory of society and religion. It is to the socio-historical struggle for this alternative Future III that this Manifesto and this Introduction are dedi-
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