Political Theology, Anthropomorphism, and Person-hood of the State: The Religion of IR1


  • 1

    I would like to thank Pami Aalto, Francis A. Beer, Andreas Behnke, Michael Dillon, Petr Drulák, Stuart Elden, Vilho Harle, Susanna Hast, Petri Koikkalainen, Anssi Kumpula, Juha Käpylä, Tommi Lehtonen, Marjo Lindroth, Aini Linjakumpu, Louiza Odysseos, Fabio Petito, Sergei Prozorov, Julian Reid, Rainer Salosensaari, Tiina Seppälä, Gabriella Slomp, Saara Särmä, Tarja Väyrynen, Alexander Wendt, Wouter G. Werner, and (what must be by now at least) a dozen of anonymous referees for taking time and making effort to comment earlier drafts of this article.


In this article I identify international relations as a form of religion. My identification takes two epistemological paths. The first one has been cleared by political theologians such as Carl Schmitt, who teach that “secular” political ideas not only have a divine origin, but also structural identity with Christian theology. I will clear the second path with help from a cognitive theory of religion that identifies anthropomorphism as a defining criterion of religion. International relations is a religion, because it is a system of thought that takes the metaphorical image of the personified, embodied state more seriously than other, more idiosyncratic forms of anthropomorphism. What we have in academic IR is, thus, a theology that works to generalize and systematize this religious image into a disciplinary form.