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The Augustinian Imperative: A Reflection on the Politics of Morality (Modernity and Political Thought)

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9780742521476: The Augustinian Imperative: A Reflection on the Politics of Morality (Modernity and Political Thought)
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An entirely new interpretation of one of the most seminal and widely read figures in the history of political thought, The Augustinian Imperative is also 'an archaeological investigation into the intellectual foundation of liberal societies.' Drawing support from Nietzsche and Foucault, Connolly argues that the Augustinian Imperative contains unethical implications: its carriers too often convert living signs that threaten their ontological self-confidence into modes of otherness to be condemned, punished, or converted in order to restore that confidence. With a lucidity and rhetorical power that makes it readily accessible, The Augustinian Imperative examines Augustine's enactment of the Imperative, explores alternative ethico-political orientations, and subsequently reveals much about the politics of morality in the modern age.

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About the Author:

William E. Connolly teaches political theory at Johns Hopkins University where he is professor of political science.

Review:

William Connolly stages conversations between Augustine, Nietzsche, and Foucault; conversations between late antiquity when Christianity was establishing itself as a world religion, and modernity when, with the late twentieth century fall of communism, Christianity and liberal democracy remain as unfallen titans. Connolly is not an omniscient narrator offering definitive judgements. He disagrees with aspects of the Augustinian Imperative (and its modern equivalents), such as the insistence that there isan intrinsic moral order susceptible to authoritative representation. Yet he values Augustine for drawing attention to the importance and necessity, in ethics and political life, of sensibility and interiority: in memory, forgetting, sensuality, mystery,paradox, the uncanny, reverence, and awakening. He agrees with Augustine about the importance of confession, that we in modernity also are always in a confessional mode; and like Augustine we remain haunted by the problem of the will. Connolly is heir andmajor contributor to a theologico-philosophical and postsecularist tradition, from the early Enlightenment to the present, that includes Spinoza, John Toland, David Hume, the Freud of Moses and Monotheism, and Regina Schwartz. Postsecularism recognises t (John Docker, Australian National University)

The great interest of Connolly's book is the masterly way in which he shows the emergence and consolidation of the moral sensibility which has had a lasting influence in our culture and which only begins to fade away in a post-Nietzschean era. This book is not simply the history of a doctrine and its lasting effects; it also illuminates the pre-suppositions that made that doctrine acceptable and that governed the various substitutions. It truly belongs to what can legitimately be called "the history of Being." (Ernesto Laclau, University of Essex)

Connolly is an important figure in American cultural studies and political science. The Augustinian Imperative is pivotal to Connoly's career. (Journal of the American Academy of Religion)

Connolly rightly identifies a permanent instability in Augustinian theology - God's omnipotence and perfection are made indispensable to his theology, while human experiences of horror, outrage, and grief constantly cast doubt on these themes. (Book Review Digest)

The Augustinian Imperative is a brilliant exposition of the relations between discursive codes, the sites of authority lodged within them, and the forms of identity they produce/prohibit/reveal. Connolly's inspired reading is particularly useful to feminist readers for its exploration of the many ways in which Augustine's moral world is gendered. Connolly's deconstruction of the religious/secular dyad performs, in fresh and creative ways, the classic genealogical move against dualistic thinking; Connolly goes on to articulate an alternative political-ethical practice that is attentive to the debts it sustains to its opponents, and respectful of the ambiguities it hosts. (Kathy E. Ferguson, University of Hawaii)

"William Connolly stages conversations between Augustine, Nietzsche, and Foucault; conversations between late antiquity when Christianity was establishing itself as a world religion, and modernity when, with the late twentieth century fall of communism, Christianity and liberal democracy remain as unfallen titans. Connolly is not an omniscient narrator offering definitive judgements. He disagrees with aspects of the Augustinian Imperative (and its modern equivalents), such as the insistence that there is an intrinsic moral order susceptible to authoritative representation. Yet he values Augustine for drawing attention to the importance and necessity, in ethics and political life, of sensibility and interiority: in memory, forgetting, sensuality, mystery, paradox, the uncanny, reverence, and awakening. He agrees with Augustine about the importance of confession, that we in modernity also are always in a confessional mode; and like Augustine we remain haunted by the problem of the will. Connolly is heir and major contributor to a theologico-philosophical and postsecularist tradition, from the early Enlightenment to the present, that includes Spinoza, John Toland, David Hume, the Freud of Moses and Monotheism, and Regina Schwartz. Postsecularism recognises that the religious narratives of the West, in biblical stories like Genesis or The Book of Job, have become, for good or ill or both, foundational narratives in world history. Postsecularism suggests that every ethico-political project assumes a creation story, a story of primordial origins; that no culture dispenses with myth, and that myths and counter-myths, Christian as much as pagan, are rich modes of textuality and understanding that cannot be reduced to single formulae of interpretation. On the contrary, the points of ambiguity and mystery within a myth excite our interpretative imagination. Connolly writes in ways that are always fearless, supple, adventurous, witty, worldly, asking himself and us to consider gateways to the new, the different, the (John Docker, Australian National University)

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