We – Sean Durbin and I – are putting the final touches to a new book series with Palgrave Macmillan. It is called ‘Religion and Radicalism’ and will publish monographs and edited volumes. But what does religion and radicalism mean in this case?

This series arises from the international Religion and Radicalism project. It is primarily interested in left-wing religious radicalism and the way it relates to progressive politics. This under-explored tradition has two main dimensions: a) profound criticism of an oppressive status quo in light of religious alterity (claims to a higher reality), which entails often revolutionary means for overcoming that situation; b) alternative forms of social life that value justice, equality, and collective endeavour.

Religion has been inextricably part of radical political movements since such movements began. The Peasant Revolution led by Thomas Müntzer in 16th century Germany, the Taiping Rebellion in 19th century China, and Liberation Theology in the 20th century are only the most well-known of a myriad of such movements. However, in recent years scholarly inquiry has tended to focus squarely on reactionary religious movements, their political consequences, and their threats to the status quo. Relatively little attention has been given to radical left-wing movements. This series directly addresses that lack in research and assessment.

The volumes respond to a growing thirst for critical knowledge of the religious heritage of radical movements. Members of radical movements seek to draw insights from this heritage; progressive political philosophers have begun to engage in detail with various religious traditions; many are inspired to become involved in such movements due to religious inspiration. The time is ripe for a comprehensive and sustained engagement with that rich radical tradition in its many dimensions.

Five volumes are ready to be published, but we are – obviously – interested in further volumes, especially monographs. So, if you have a book in mind or in hand, contact us and we can discuss a proposal.

Idols of Nations: Biblical Myth at the Origins of Capitalism (Fortress Press) is now out. You can find the book by clicking here or on the image in the side-bar. It may be a little cheaper on other sites.

A few announcements to come, such as the ‘Religion and Radicalism’ book series with Palgrave Macmillan, and the final stages of planning for a research program in ‘Religion, Marxism and Secularism’ at the University of Newcastle. Speaking of the latter, we are pondering the slogan, ‘Towards world domination’.

Meanwhile, one inspiration is Chairman Mao, who wrote in 1955 of the crucial importance of Marxist philosophy:

I would advise our comrades to study philosophy. Quite a few people are uninterested in philosophy; they do not have the habit of studying philosophy … There are a number of subjects in Marxism: Marxist philosophy, Marxist economics, Marxist socialism – the theory of class struggle; but the basic thing is Marxist philosophy. Unless this thing is studies and understood, we will not have a common language or a common method among us. (The Writings of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976, vol. 1, p. 533)

No wonder there are so many centres of Marxist philosophy in China.

Mao studying 01

Mao studying 03

Privatisation or outsourcing: the ideologues of these tendencies argue with perfectly straight faces that they entail reductions of the state. Sell off electricity, public transport, education, water, medical care – each one is not the state’s concern, and will be undertaken more efficiently by the ‘private sector’. Or put out for tender state tasks such as aged care, job-seeking, postal services and whatnot and then give them state money to do the job. These days, religious bodies have also reconfigured themselves as private suppliers of ‘services’. So they offer aged care and education, medicine and relationship counselling, all in exchange for state contracts. So it should be, argue the ideologues. These are not the business of the state. Even opponents buy that line, so they try to resist outsourcing and privatisation.

By contrast, outsourcing and privatisation are actually extensions of the state. How so? Capitalism requires strong states to operate, to provide infrastructure, strongly policed borders and interiors, and so on. And a strong state is a big state, pervading all aspects of life. So when you have outsourcing, it entails yet further extension of the tentacles of the state. Outsourcing requires a whole spate of rules, guidelines, controls, reports. These are determined by the state: if it hands over money for such services, it sets the rules. The same applies to privatisation: in exchange for a big wad of cash, the state sets the conditions for how the various ‘enterprises’ should be run. Water must be delivered, sewerage must be sucked away, trains must run on time …

In other words, the continued neoliberal push for outsourcing and privatisation is actually a push to the biggest state of all. But this entails another paradox: those who argue that the state should keep control of these activities, and even take over banks, mining, large businesses, and so on, are actually arguing for a smaller state.

This is now the official name for our home:

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Given the interest in an earlier picture of me on a tropical throne, I thought I would add a few to fill out the scene. It is not so often that one takes a camera to the toilet, but then this is no ordinary affair.

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My only regret is not having the camera with me on the occasion when I was joined by some others. First, a horse meandered over, became curious, walked towards me and then looked directly at me from about a metre away. We began a conversation about many things (I will not elaborate here). As we were conversing, a chicken came around the corner, stopped and cocked its head while looking at me. Close behind the chicken came another horse, and it too stopped close by and joined the audience.

Stalin on Time Magazine 1939 and 1942

The first was in 1939, although the reason was ambivalent: ‘Whether Europe’s new era will end in nationalist chaos, good or bad internationalism, or what not, the era will be new—and the end of the old era will have been finally precipitated by a man whose domain lies mostly outside Europe. This Joseph Stalin did by dramatically switching the power balance of Europe one August night. It made Joseph Stalin man of 1939. History may not like him but history cannot forget him.’

By the end of 1942, the magazine was echoing the growing world-wide acclaim of Stalin, especially as the victory at Stalingrad and turning point of the Second World War was becoming clear: ‘The year 1942 was a year of blood and strength. The man whose name means steel in Russian, whose few words of English include the American expression ‘tough guy’ was the man of 1942. Only Joseph Stalin fully knew how close Russia stood to defeat in 1942, and only Joseph Stalin fully knew how he brought Russia through. But the whole world knew what the alternative would have been. The man who knew it best of all was Adolf Hitler, who found his past accomplishments turning into dust.’