Abandoning the oppositional territory

Jacob Taubes’s doctoral thesis-turned-manuscript Occidental Eschatology is immense in scope, trying to account for the presence and expression of eschatology in the West.  In this account it seem that the notion of the ‘end’ and history has not been able to rid itself of the forms of apocalyptic that continue to emerge.  According to Taubes it appears that apocalyptic emerges when a generation or segment of society is no longer able to abide by the current forms of totality, whether it is a totality of empire or thought (Rome or Hegel).  His work culminates in Hegel’s grand system of spirit and how to think something’s opposition within its whole (a thesis always functions with and somehow exists with the necessary presence of its antithesis).

So Hegel himself is rather unremarkable in his context or to put it positively, Hegel is adaptable for his time causing few waves.  But not so for those who cannot abide by his whole or those who further extend its implications.  Neither Marx nor Kierkegaard can abide by Hegel as it is (and of course in this way it could be argued that Marx and Kierkegaard are more Hegelian than the later Hegelians).

Both Marx and Kierkegaard want a return to accounting for actually as opposed to remaining in an abstracted ideal system.  But there is a massive difference between the two approaches.

“The difference between Marx and Kierkegaard lies in the positions of inside and outside.  Marx pins his hopes for a proletarian revolution on the economic situation of the masses, while for Kierkegaard it is the individual that underpins the religious revolution of the bourgeois Christianity.  This contrast corresponds to the difference in their interpretation of self-alienation.  Marx sees bourgeois society to be a society of isolated individuals in which man is alienated from his species; Kierkegaard sees in bourgeois Christendom a Christianity of the masses in which man is alienated from his individuality.  . . . Both critiques are grounded in the disintegration of God and the world, which is the original pre-condition for self-alienation, as has been shown in the studies of apocalyptic and Gnosis. . . . When Marx builds a society without God, and Kierkegaard places the individual alone before God, their common assumption is the disintegration of God and the world, the division of the divine and the secular.” (176, 184)

In this way Taubes positions Marx and Kierkegaard in a sort of ‘face-off’.

“Inwardness and outwardness are divided between Marx and Kierkegaard into worldly revolution and religious repentance.  Kierkegaard has made it absolutely clear that Christian life is inward and therefore must be acosmic and antiworldly.  Marx has replaces the truth of the world beyond with the truth of this world, and has shown that the atheistic roots of communism are constitutive.  The fusion of inside and outside can only be attained if one is prepared to abandon the territory which holds Marx and Kierkegaard, even in their opposition, captive.” (191)

What I was not prepared for was Taubes’s Epilogue following this statement, his account of abandoning the shared oppositional territory.  It is probably why I was attracted to his style in The Political Theology of Paul precisely because he did not rest or reside in that territory but in doing so he also did not abandon what was important to both Marx and Kierkegaard.  And he does this, I think, then without also trying to return to Hegel, but that is not a statement I am certain I could back up.

I will post some quotes from and thoughts on his Epilogue shortly.

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