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Violence, Self-authorship and the 'Death of God': The 'Traps' of the Messianic and the Tragic

Hirst, A. (2013). Violence, Self-authorship and the 'Death of God': The 'Traps' of the Messianic and the Tragic. MILLENNIUM-JOURNAL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, 42(1), pp. 135-154. doi: 10.1177/0305829813497822


Nietzsche’s heralding of the ‘Death of God’ announces and exposes the condition of foundationlessness underpinning (Western) modernity and provokes the crucial question of the goals and purposes of political life. Without the figure of the divine as sanction and guide, political society lacks a stable foundation upon which to identify and legitimate itself. This paper explores the respective responses of two traditions of critical thought which engage explicitly with the challenges this poses, namely the messianic and the tragic. The central aim is to trace a series of ‘traps’ in evidence in both messianic and tragic thought which lead them to (re)turn to particular forms of transcendentalism; both traditions, it is argued, turn towards the divine in their responses to the ‘Death of God’. However, the paper suggests that while the messianic is inextricably bound up in such a return to the divine, the tragic, as well as comprising several problematic violences, retains a particular salience in theorising subjectivity and the political under the condition of foundationlessness named by the ‘Death of God’.

Publication Type: Article
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Departments: City, University of London (-2022) > School of Arts & Social Sciences
School of Arts & Social Sciences
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