Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology

by Roland Boer. Leiden: Koninklijke Brill NV, 2007. 472 pp.




This volume consists of a critical commentary on the interactions between Marxism and theology in the work of the major figures of Western Marxism. It deals with the theological writings of Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, Henri Lefebvre, Antonio Gramsci, Terry Eagleton, Slavoj Žižek and Theodor Adorno. In many cases their theological writings are dealt with for the first time in this book. It is surprising how much theological material there is and how little commentators have dealt with it. Apart from the critical engagement with the way they use theology, the book also explores how their theological writings infiltrate and enrich their Marxist work. The book has three parts: Biblical Marxists (Bloch and Benjamin), Catholic Marxists (Althusser, Lefebvre, Gramsci and Eagleton), and the Protestant Turn (Žižek and Adorno). Content:

1. Bloch’s Detective Work Argument and advocacy / From the Bible to sentence production, and back again / Method: class conflict as a hermeneutical key / Vagaries of writing / Oral and written texts / Forces of redaction / Biblical criticism / The politics of interpretation / The critique of myth Exegesis / The Hebrew Bible / New Testament / The return to theology / Atheism / Teleology Transcendence / Faith, hope, sin and death 2. Benjamin’s Perpetuation of Biblical Myth Trauerspiel / Demons, allegory and flesh (allegorical level) / Fall and Eschaton (moral and anagogic levels) / Passagenarbeit / Method: collector as allegorist / Passages / The double allegory of Marxism and theology / Myth and history / Appropriation of the maternal function Genesis / Language / Ursprung / Salvation history [Heilsgeschichte]: the return of biblical myth / Conclusion 3. The Ecclesiastical Eloquence of Louis Althusser Ecclesiastical form: theological writings / From absent cause to philosophy of religion / The logical necessity / Elements of a materialist philosophy of religion / Ideology / Myth / Conclusion: the terminus of (auto)biography? 4. The Heresies of Henri Lefebvre Threshold / Exploration / Worship / Archaeology Heresies / Blondel / Joachim de Fiore and mysticism / Jansen and the Albigensians / The Devil / On religion: reading Lefebvre against himself / Everyday life / Space / Women / Conclusion 5. The Ecumenism of Antonio Gramsci Ecumenism / Politics: the ‘Eighteenth Brumaire’ of the Holy See / Catholic Action / Internal conflict: integralists, Jesuits and modernists / Bewilderment? External alliances / Intellectuals Reformation / Counter-Reformation and Reformation / The Italian Luther / Conclusion 6. The Apostasy of Terry Eagleton Wit and the encyclopaedia, or the tensions of style / Orthodoxy and orthopraxis / Asceticism / Evil and the humble virtues / The absence of sin, or, the politics of forgiveness / Radical christology Theology redidivus? / The desire for a historical Jesus / Christological metaphors / The problem of the personality cult / An intrinsic Eagleton? (The question of ecclesiology) 7. The Conversion of Slavoj Žižek The darkness of Lacan: the challenge of Butler and Laclau / Of truth-events and sundry matters: the challenge of Badiou / Materialist grace? / A glimpse / The cul-de-sac of ethics and love / The Protestant turn / Badiou, or militant gratuitousness / The grace of V. I. Lenin / Kierkegaard’s snare / Revolutionary grace / Conclusion 8. Adorno’s Vacillation Theological suspicion / Demythologisation / Faith: inwardness and history / Christology / Sacrifice / Cosmology: the spheres / Secularised theology / Judaism and the ban on images / The possibilities of theology / Love / Grace / Conclusion