In the Vale of Tears


Having just returned from a lively panel on ‘Marxism and Theology’ at the New York Historical Materialism conference, I have been asked whether I would be interested in a panel on my Deutscher-prize book, In The Vale of Tears, for the Sydney event – on 17-18 July. The catch is that not so many Marxists in Australia know much about philosophy, let alone Marxism and religion. One or two come to mind, but this is probably a good moment for some crowd-sourcing. Suggestions welcome (send to my University of Newcastle email address).

It’s now official: In the Vale of Tears is listed as the winner of the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize at the prize website (see also the announcement at the Historical Materialism page and at the University of Newcastle). The award was for the book and for the whole Criticism of Heaven and Earth series, which is just as well, since I have always been a little ambivalent about In the Vale of Tears. All the same, I am somewhat gobsmacked by the fact that the other short-listed books were Frederic Jameson, The Antinomies of Realism, Costas Lapavistas, Profiting without Producing: How Finance Exploits Us All, and John Saul and Patrick Bond, South Africa – The Present as History.

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In the Vale of Tears 01

My good comrade at Louisproyekt has just written a lovely review of my work, called ‘Roland f**king Boer?’ This is arguably the review of reviews, for he calls me an ‘asshole’, ‘clown’ and full of ‘garbage’. I’ve been glowing since I read it. Apparently, it is in response to the announcement that I won the Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Prize for 2014. However, it seems to me that my good comrade is missing even the slightest sense of humour – apart from misspelling ‘mustache’.

No sooner is the hardcover of In the Vale of Tears published than the paperback appears. Or rather, the good lefties at Haymarket plan to publish the paperback in June 2014.

The front cover image is already available:

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Volume five of The Criticism of Heaven and Earth series is at last published. In the Vale of Tears: On Marxism and Theology V brings to a close my study of Western Marxism and religion, offering a statement of my own response to that tradition. To my complete surprise and great pleasure, the series has become widely read, commented upon, and even translated into other languages. You might want to wait for either the Haymarket paperback of this book or the free download  that someone will put up soon (they tell me such free downloads actually assist with people buying the book).

Table of Contents (brief):

Preface

Introduction

Of Old Timber and Lovers

On Theology

Relativising Theology

Theological Suspicion

Synopsis

Chapter One: Atheism

Banishing the Gods?

Marxism and Theology

Chapter Two: Myth

Prolegomenon

Political Myth

Anticipation, or Utopia

For Example …

Chapter Three: Ambivalence

Scandal And Folly

Folly to the Rich

Towards a Marxist Theory of Political Ambivalence

By Way of Conclusion

Chapter Four: History

Method: Search for an Anti-Fulcrum

Paul’s Shaky Transitions

Between the Sacred Economy and Slavery

The Fate of Christian Communism

Chapter Five: Kairós

At the Crossroads of Time

Eschatology

Ákairos

Measure And Immeasure (Negri)

By Way of Conclusion: Political Grace

Chapter Six: Ethics

Ethics, Morality and Moralising

Care of the Self

Greasing the Other

Towards Ethical Insurgency

Chapter Seven: Idols

That Hideous Pagan Idol: Marx and Fetishism        628

On Graven Images: From Liberation Theology to Theodor Adorno

Conclusion: On Secularism, Transcendence and Death

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As I work through the proofs of In the Vale of TearsI am reminded of Max Horkheimer’s finely dialectical  definition of theology:

Theology has always tried to reconcile the demands of the Gospels and of power. In view of the clear utterances of the founder, enormous ingenuity was required. Theology drew its strength from the fact that whatever is to be permanent on earth must conform to the laws of nature: the right of the stronger. Its indispensable task was to reconcile Christianity and power, to give a satisfactory self-awareness to both high and low with which they could do their work in a corrupt world. Like the founder who paid the price for refusing to show any concern for his own life and was murdered for it, and like all who really followed him and shared his fate or at least were left to perish helplessly, his later followers would have perished like fools if they had not concluded a pact or at least found a modus vivendi with the blood-thirsty Merovingians and Carolingians, with the demagogues of crusades and with the holy inquisition. Civilization with its tall cathedrals, the madonnas of Raphael and even the poetry of Baudelaire owes its existence to the terror once perpetrated by such tyrants and their accomplices. There is blood sticking to all good things. (Critique of Instrumental Reason, p. 36)