The Gift Exchanged: The Gift in Religion

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9781405154833: The Gift Exchanged: The Gift in Religion
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Theory and Theology (provisional title)

Edited by John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock and Graham Ward

In recent years the field of theology and religious studies has changed out of all recognition; however there is currently no book series which fully reflects the diverse elements of these shifts and tries to produce new syntheses.

The most important context here is a move of these disciplines from the margin to the centre. This reflects the increased visibility of religion in the world at large. There has been a perceived failure of secular ideologies, now including liberalism itself and an increased loss of faith in enlightenment humanism. This has left a vacuum which only religions appear to be able to fill. Intellectually there is also a growing sense that religion and culture lie so close together that religion is an unavoidable and fundamental human reality. A further factor is globalisation: religions are able to exploit this phenomenon, especially because in world terms they remain very powerful. At the same time this new circumstance is encouraging an intensified conflict between the competing universal visions of the 'great faiths'. Eminent social scientists like Jurgen Habermas are now using terms like 'post-secularism' to define these new cultural conditions.

It is not just within the social sciences that there is a renewed interest in religion. A large group of continential philosophers have become dissatisfied with a purely 'postmodern' approach. These thinkers are increasingly discussing aspects of religion, and include figures such as Zizek, Marion, Chretien, Derrida and Irigaray. In the Ango-Saxon world there have been different but parallel trends in the wake of the exhaustion of the analytic project on the part of some thinkers. Post-analytic philosophy is either more naturalistic or more religious (as can be seen in the debate between Dennett and MacIntyre and Charles Taylor).

The novelty of Theory and Theology would be, in the first place, an explicit foregrounding of the new interaction between theology, philosophy, political theory and cultural studies (including religious studies). Despite the theoretical convergence of certain trends, they often in practice do not come together. Th aim of Theory and Theology would be to make this happen, and thereby significantly to advance contemporary theoretical discussion. We would hope that this would become not just a respected but a renowned series. Possible future contributors would include Zizek, Eagleton, Badiou, Charles Taylor, O-T Venard OP, J-Y Lacoste, J-L Chretien and William Desmond.

We would expect to work closely with Rebecca Harkin to determine the correct mix of titles, but the first 4 or 5 could be:

1. The Gift in Religion by John Milbank. This book would for the first time offer a complete treatment of the debate on the gift in all its ethnographic, historical, philosophic and theological ramifications.

2. Creation and Evolution by Michael Hanby. This book would offer something very original: a philosophical and theological critique of Darwinism in terms of its presuppositions and consequences, which nonetheless in no ways endorses 'creationism' which it rather sees as a modern phenomenon that colludes with its seeming opponent.

3. Work by John Hughes A thorough re-examination of philosophies and theologies of labour.

4. The Lineage of Soul by Catherine Pickstock.

5. Cultural Ethics: Rethinking Christian Socialism by Graham Ward This study would begin with a genealogy of socialist thought, relating both it Marxist and religious forms to cultural shifts in Christianity and politics dating back to the early modern period. It would then go on to examine its demise under the new cultrual conditions of the 1970's and 80's and explore the new contemporary possibilities at a point when, in the West, postsecualrity encounters forms of postdemocracy, postliberalism and posthumanism.

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