Political Myth: On the Use and Abuse of Biblical Themes

Duke University Press
Free sample

In this provocative and necessary work, Roland Boer, a leading biblical scholar and cultural theorist, develops a political myth for the Left: a powerful narrative to be harnessed in support of progressive policy. Boer focuses on foundational stories in the Hexateuch, the first six books of the Bible, from Genesis through Joshua. He contends that the “primal story” that runs from Creation, through the Exodus, and to the Promised Land is a complex political myth, one that has been appropriated recently by the Right to advance reactionary political agendas. To reclaim it in support of progressive political ends, Boer maintains, it is necessary to understand the dynamics of political myth.

Boer elaborates a theory of political myth in dialogue with Ernst Bloch, Theodor Adorno, Alain Badiou, Jacques Lacan, and Slavoj Žižek. Through close readings of well-known biblical stories he then scrutinizes the nature of political myth in light of feminism, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. Turning to contemporary politics, he examines the statements of prominent American and Australian politicians to show how the stories of Creation, conquest, Paradise, and the Promised Land have been distorted into a fantasy of Israel as a perpetual state in the making and a land in need of protection. Boer explains how this fantasy of Israel shapes U.S. and Australian foreign and domestic policies, and he highlights the links between it and the fantasy of unfettered global capitalism. Contending that political myths have repressed dimensions which if exposed undermine the myths’ authority, Boer urges the Left to expose the weakness in the Right’s mythos. He suggests that the Left make clear what the world would look like were the dream of unconstrained capitalism to be realized.

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About the author

Roland Boer is a Research Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. His many books include Rescuing the Bible, Criticism of Heaven: On Marxism and Theology, Marxist Criticism of the Bible, Last Stop before Antarctica: The Bible and Postcolonialism in Australia, and Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door: The Bible and Popular Culture. He is the founding editor of the journal The Bible and Critical Theory.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Mar 25, 2009
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Pages
266
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ISBN
9780822390053
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / History & Theory
Religion / Theology
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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In The Labor of Job, the renowned Marxist political philosopher Antonio Negri develops an unorthodox interpretation of the Old Testament book of Job, a canonical text of Judeo-Christian thought. In the biblical narrative, the pious Job is made to suffer for no apparent reason. The story revolves around his quest to understand why he must bear, and why God would allow, such misery. Conventional readings explain the tale as an affirmation of divine transcendence. When God finally speaks to Job, it is to assert his sovereignty and establish that it is not Job’s place to question what God allows. In Negri’s materialist reading, Job does not recognize God’s transcendence. He denies it, and in so doing becomes a co-creator of himself and the world.

The Labor of Job was first published in Italy in 1990. Negri began writing it in the early 1980s, while he was a political prisoner in Italy, and it was the first book he completed during his exile in France (1983–97). As he writes in the preface, understanding suffering was for him in the early 1980s “an essential element of resistance. . . . It was the problem of liberation, in prison and in exile, from within the absoluteness of Power.” Negri presents a Marxist interpretation of Job’s story. He describes it as a parable of human labor, one that illustrates the impossibility of systems of measure, whether of divine justice (in Job’s case) or the value of labor (in the case of late-twentieth-century Marxism). In the foreword, Michael Hardt elaborates on this interpretation. In his commentary, Roland Boer considers Negri’s reading of the book of Job in relation to the Bible and biblical exegesis. The Labor of Job provides an intriguing and accessible entry into the thought of one of today’s most important political philosophers.

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