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Keywords:

  • Giorgio Agamben;
  • Jürgen Habermas;
  • intellectual history;
  • John Milbank;
  • postsecular;
  • Eric L. Santner;
  • secularization;
  • theoreticism;
  • Slavoj Žižek

ABSTRACT

In this collection of critical essays, Dominick LaCapra, with characteristic verve, takes on a variety of authors who have addressed issues relating to intellectual history, history generally, violence, trauma, and the relation between the human and the animal. LaCapra offers two types of criticism—of historians for ignoring or misappropriating theory, and of theorists for engaging in “theoreticism,” a theorizing that rides roughshod over historical specificity and context. The present essay focuses on LaCapra's discussion of the theoreticism of the critical theorists Giorgio Agamben, Eric L. Santner, and Slavoj Žižek, and in particular on their and LaCapra's attempts to engage with the “issue of the postsecular.” Although Agamben, Santner, and Žižek highlight some important and provocative issues, this brand of critical theory provides too limited a base for coming to an understanding of current debates over the relation between religion and secular perspectives. Instead, one must approach “postsecularity” with attentiveness to the larger “secularization debate,” and to the way the term postsecular is used by such writers as Jürgen Habermas and John Milbank. LaCapra rightly draws attention to the recent emergence of a discourse of “the postsecular.” Both the term and the concept now cry out for a deeper, more critical, and more historical examination than has so far been attempted.