Fall 2015: Smith Abstract

The Natural History of Creation and the Theological Nature of Sovereignty
Mick Smith
Professor and Queen’s National Scholar, School of Environmental Studies

Queen’s University

According to Carl Schmitt “all significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts”, and this certainly applies to his analysis of sovereignty. Indeed he bases his analysis of sovereignty on an analogy between the religious miracle and the sovereign exception, both of which occur as interruptive events that fracture the normative and universal rule of law, one in the sphere of nature, the other in the political sphere. The retention, and Schmitt’s promotion of the political exception would, then, seem to run counter to usual understandings of secularization especially those where the natural sciences are understood as playing a key secularizing role in, for example, rejecting the intercession of miracles as an explanatory or justificatory tactic. It is interesting to consider Schmitt’s attempt to resurrect a political theology in relation to Bruno Latour’s recent suggestion that “religion could become a powerful alternative to modernizing and a powerful help for ecologizing provided that a connection be established (or rather re-established) between religion and Creation instead of religion and nature.” How might issues of sovereignty play out between Latour’s eco-theological politics and Schmitt’s political ecology and what might this mean for the prospects of a politically informed natural history of creation?

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