The Sovereignty of the World: Towards a Political Theology of Modernity (After Blumenberg)

In Agata Bielik-Robson & Daniel Whistler (eds.), Interrogating Modernity: Debates with Hans Blumenberg. London: pp. 83-107 (2020)
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Reading with and against Blumenberg’s The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, and following his own account of the epochal shift from the Middle Ages to modernity, this chapter takes up the genealogy and the political theology of Blumenbergian modernity so as to reanimate its relevance for contemporary theory. Beginning with the shared opposition to Gnosticism found in both Christianity and modernity, we trace the emergence of modernity as creating a “counterworld” of possibility in the face of the alienation engendered by medieval nominalist ideas of God’s absolute transcendence and hiddenness. In modernity, the world becomes sovereign: the modern world positions—and reproduces—itself as a sovereign and transcendent totality of possibility that its subjects must endlessly work to actualize, thus creating new operations and legitimations of domination. We conclude by outlining a programme of thinking what is constitutively foreclosed by Blumenberg’s modernity: an immanence alien to this Christian-modern apparatus of transcendence and possibility, a life for disorder and against the world.
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