It has become commonplace today to speak of a widespread, so-called faith and hope in money and markets. The ubiquitous power and influence of the economy appear to require, or at least inspire, religious language and invocations of the divine. Economic institutions may sometimes be described as “idols” or “demigods” dictating the lives and destinies of millions. Money is depicted as an object of “worship,” as enthusiastic participants in the global economy prostrate themselves before the “altars” of capital, seeking economic “salvation.” These are usually no more than passing allusions or fleeting attempts at evocative metaphor. But such ascriptions and the links they imply have long-standing foundations.
The tendency to highlight money’s purportedly religious dynamics can be traced in part to the ways in which economic ideas and activity have actually interacted with religious thought and practice over the centuries in Western societies. This book initiates an investigation of these connections between money and Christian theology, following the intuition that the development of the economy in the West is marked by an ongoing relation between these two spheres. I claim that portrayals of monetary acquisition as a spiritual quest, or of economic processes and powers as infused with religious characteristics, are in part the result of concrete conceptual and institutional resonance between talk about God and the nature and uses of money.
Particular early Christian theological ideas incorporate and retain traces of monetary economy. Monetary language, concepts, and practices prove useful in clarifying and formalizing certain emerging and central theological claims. This infusion of monetary thought and practice into core Christian doctrine means that Christian ideas, practices, and traditions help to convey this theological and economic combination into new social and political formations and legitimate evolving customs and institutions of monetary economy. If money lends its logic to the structuring of theology, God-talk repays by offering its prestige and sacred power to the world of exchange.
This book, therefore, coincides with studies of the partially theological sources of the modern economy. It also participates in broader considerations of the theological heritage of modern politics and statecraft, for it is my assumption that money and economy cannot be adequately grasped apart from matters of sovereignty and law. This investigation demonstrates that these connections among monetary economy, politics, and religious thought and practice have been present since key “founding moments” of the Western imaginary.
Rather than attempting a wide-ranging genealogy or documenting the longue durée of theological economic development, I consider several ancient points of interaction or resonance between money and theology. Moreover, although Judaic and Islamic theological traditions also interface with monetary economy, and both should be considered significant contributors to Western legacy, I focus on Christian thought. Christian theology persists as a central authorizing discourse in the development of Western societies and self-understanding. My study adds an additional perspective to the growing body of literature assessing the residual yet persistent Christian theological legacy—both explicit and implicit—in modern politics and economy. Widespread social and institutional influence by Christianity began at least as early as the fourth century, and the discourses I consider took place in this formative period of Christian theology and empire.
Assessing these founding moments is not a “quest for origins” or for the “pure sources” of the nexus of money and theology. It is an attempt to shed light on elements relevant to one “moment of arising” of this conceptual ensemble.1 Considering Christian theology’s debt to monetary practice for many of its key concepts in their early manifestations does not necessarily convey a more authentic image of the connections I seek to highlight. It does, however, potentially enlighten genealogical analyses of Christian influence by considering periods that remain authoritative within Christian traditions themselves. Patristic voices, those of the so-called church fathers, are resources to which Christian thought has continually looked in its ongoing self-construction. These early theologies are persistently drawn upon in theological discourse and retain an authoritative aura due to both their primacy and their antiquity, as well as their conciliar—and, hence, political and patriarchal—ratification.
Revealing the links between money and theology from these beginnings of formal Christian theological expression demonstrates that money cannot be dismissed as a corrupting influence on such ideas but is a critical structuring principle in theological thought. In turn, theological discourse eventually comes to play a determinative role in politics and economic administration in Christendom, meaning that monetized theology lends its own types of direction and legitimation to this worldly sphere. The historical priority of the late antique fusion of money and theology means that certain conceptual figures have been and continue to be taken up and redeployed in theology and practice across the centuries. Such redeployment is always originary and not merely mimetic, and each instance requires its own analysis. Yet, unpacking something like the beginnings of a formal Christian synthesis of monetary logic and discourse about God and salvation can only be salutary for analyzing the development and impact of such tradition.
Religions of the market?
Contemporary appraisals of the purportedly religious character of money and markets in the modern West often appear impressionistic. At a popular level, some condemn the existential posture of subservience to the gods of finance. In many scholarly critiques based upon stable, external, and often vague definitions of what religion entails, we can find glimpses of an apparent religious structure to global economy or contemporary economic practices labeled as quasi-religious.2 Yet, it is often unclear what work the labels do other than provide emotivist or intuitive grounds for critique.3 We find sharp dichotomies and oppositional tensions drawn between religion and the economy from the start. To invocations of market religiosity are sometimes added specters of heresy or idolatry, and the necessity of ensuing condemnation is made to appear self-evident. After all, shouldn’t we all seek to decry idolatry, whatever it is?4
These approaches tend to take the form of pure and objective critique from a religious or theological point of view. They often work from the premise not only that religion can serve as an obvious and fixed template for diagnosing contemporary economy, but also that theology provides the conceptual and ethical correctives to societal woes. Not only is the conversation frontloaded such that denunciation of the present economic order is inevitable, but the socioanalytic usefulness of construing particular economic practices as religious also remains unclear. The spheres of religion or theology, typically construed as distinct from the economy, can then supposedly be brought to bear in judgment upon economic arrangements as false or heterodox religions. Left unconsidered is the extent to which theology and broader religious discourse and practice may have in fact helped to construct the very systems and structures assessed and critiqued. Even further removed are inquiries about the ways in which theologians have relied upon economic concepts and tropes to develop and articulate their ideas.5
We gain more analytical purchase from attempts to assess the analogous structural relations between theological discourse and the economy proper. Informed by structuralist and poststructuralist sensitivities to the operation of sign systems, one can compare the conceptual economies of theology and money, for instance.6 This approach recognizes that both systems set forth certain postures of exchange and make claims about value. The arrangement of a certain chain of signifiers in one system can be brought alongside that in the other, possibly shedding light on their respective functions through the work of comparative and contrastive analysis. For instance, the spiritual goods and exchanges taking place within the Trinity or between God and creation, as posited by particular modern Christian thinkers, can clarify and in turn be illumined by models of material economic or semiotic circulation.
What one often finds in such assessments, however, is the assumption of unidirectional influence between these disparate systems: the theological is still brought to bear as a corrective critique of the economic. The possibility that the influence works in both directions is rarely entertained. Furthermore, when the move is made to cross spheres and use theology to judge the economic realm, little justification is given for the possibility of this transfer, which often appears arbitrary. A basis for conceptual mediation between distinct structural fields, one that would undergird the possibility of theology addressing the economy in the first place, is underdetermined. Finally, these approaches risk redeploying the ahistorical perspective of their structuralist predecessors, wherein sign systems are considered with little regard for their historical and material derivation. Freeze-frame snapshots of semiotic relationships are taken to imply that the relationships have always operated in such manner. Synchronic analysis means further that the possibility of mutual historical influence between these systems is, from the start, foreclosed.7
Money, incarnation, and God’s economy
Insights on the nature and function of money afford additional opportunities for conceptual comparison between economy and theology. Money serves as a useful point of entry into such considerations because it brings to the fore questions about the materialization of transcendent value and the role of representation, issues central to debates about God’s relation to the world, for instance; because it crystallizes certain relations of power, authority, and control present in economic exchange which are critical to discussions of divine sovereignty; and because it offers a discrete set of attributes to analyze within the expansive field of economics, providing a workable scope of inquiry.
Drawing on sociologies and anthropologies of money, I understand money to be partly explained as a sign and representation of sovereign power inserted into a space or territory to aid in the governance of subjects.8 The images that money literally bears in so many of its historical manifestations are just one clue to its function as a stand-in or representative of the value system and modes of disciplinary enforcement of an authoritative, organizing center. While sovereign power (as centralized) cannot be physically present everywhere, money circulates as an extension of sovereignty, creating tendrils of control that penetrate the very exchange relations of subjects and eventually shape evaluations of reality and consequent communal formation. Money is also a mark of obligation to this power, for monetary economy is set into motion by taxation: minting authorities disseminating tokens of exchange also legislate the return of a portion of them to the governing center, and monetary tokens are given value in part by their ability to discharge this debt. Analyzing money thus requires consideration of relations of authority and hierarchy.
My inquiry began as an exploration of the conceptual parallels between Christology and monetary economy. Informed by the aforementioned approach of analogous structural comparison, I sought to elucidate what appeared as noteworthy correspondences between ideas of incarnation and a particular understanding of money. It first struck me that we could speak preliminarily and loosely of a type of monetary incarnation, where a distant sovereign power is made present by its image of value. This materialized representative of sovereignty becomes a central object of desire, imports a specific value-laden codification of reality, and shapes relations and communities by its standards.9 I considered what dynamics might be elucidated by reading the operations of money through the lens of incarnation. In what ways might construing the incarnation of the Son of God in monetary terms reveal previously unnoticed aspects of divine economy? To answer this question, I considered similarities and divergences between the operations of money and the classic tale of God’s incarnate image, a representation of worth and value on earth which aids in the consolidation of divine authority and shapes communities according to a divine standard of value.
I was spurred on by the striking language of money and value operative in Christian discourse—ascriptions of worth and treasure to Christ, for instance, not to mention the thoroughly economic terminology of “redemption”—yet I was concerned to avoid some of the ahistorical lacunae of the aforementioned structuralist approaches. I thus sought to examine in what ways the similarities between monetary and Christological incarnations were more than merely analogous. Did the striking conceptual resonances stem from actual historical links between these two economies? Could we posit more than a coincidental and allusive parallelism between money and Christ? I found the evidence to be overwhelming—so much so that this book barely scratches the surface of the intricate interpenetration of monetary and economic thought and practice, on the one hand, and Christian theological reflection and ecclesial formation, on the other. In an effort to initiate a much larger conversation that needs to take place about the long-standing relations between religion and the economy, my study makes broad conceptual claims while taking a few historical snapshots of the relationship in question.
In this study, I reconstruct an understanding of God as an economic administrator and of Christ as God’s currency. I claim that this view of God is at work as a background assumption in patristic theological discourse and results from the influence of Greco-Roman economic administration and monetary practice in the wider culture. This model gives form and structure to certain logics operative in theological discourse that have been shaped by their early context and social sphere. The nexus of theology and monetary economy also creates the conditions of possibility for theology’s reciprocal impact upon the economic sphere.
While this view of God as economist and as currency shows through at various points in patristic discourse developing in the third through fifth centuries, it remains largely unarticulated in systematic fashion. I seek to bring coherence to a diverse set of economic metaphors and images operative in early theology that have been conveyed into emergent Western tradition as certain strands of theology were construed as “orthodoxy,” raised to prominence, disseminated, and enforced. My wager is that this monetized theology has lent itself over the centuries and in various permutations to the growth of economic thought and practice in society. My genealogical and archeological eye is on late antiquity, but the model has potential for critically elucidating various historical periods. To invoke the idea of divine currency is simultaneously to make claims about an implicit concept in early theology, to diagnose a paradigm that was conveyed into Western thought and practice, and to commend a framework for assessing the interaction between theological discourse and practice and monetary economy across Western history.
Genealogy, archaeology, and re/constructive theology
This study contributes to a theological genealogy of economy in the West. A full-fledged genealogy would require a multivolume work that traces the emergence and permutations of the ideas I survey as they shape late antique, medieval, and modern society. I engage here in an archaeological retrieval of key founding tropes in the early Christian imaginary. I do so fully cognizant that archaeological work, as situated description of a perceived past, is simultaneously a type of construction and is, hence, redescription. Just as the various quests for the historical Jesus have lent as many reflections peering into the “well” of history, any attempt to conceptualize the past involves projection.10 The present is as much a consideration in any such endeavor as the past. I make no apologies for pursuing questions about early Christian theology with concerns about contemporary global economy and the pervasiveness of modern money in view. While a long road or, better, series of diffuse capillary trails would need to be traced to show how such ancient ideas lead to the construction of the present order, I aim to contribute to such work by reconstructing paradigms operative in the early fusion of theology, politics, and economy in the West.
Operating at a broad discursive level in terms of theology, politics, and monetary economy, the study claims that the characteristics explored are observable in a variety of textual and historical instances. I do not presume to provide a richly detailed historical account of early Christian theology or society, nor do I hold that patristic thought is in any way monolithic. My aim is to set forth a general conceptual edifice for thinking about the nature of monetary economy and theology’s relationship to it in the West. While locating the model in historical moments, the work here is primarily theoretical. Naturally, certain aspects of my theorization will require nuance and modification in light of more in-depth studies of specific historical and cultural formations. Furthermore, while I engage major voices in patristic thought, outliers and points of contention will persist and can serve to sharpen and refine the model I contribute.
This book makes use of genealogical and archaeological approaches as it navigates these interstices of theory and history. I understand genealogy to be a supplement to and not a replacement for more traditional methods of historiography.11 Genealogy challenges assumptions about the historian as a fixed, sovereign subject and objective observer of the past. It questions historical approaches that serve “as the handmaiden to philosophy,” vindicating timeless truths rather than analyzing the past in all its complexity.12 Genealogy subverts the quest for origins, interrogating the drive for an original, pure moment of a phenomenon, something untainted by materiality and change. Instead, it strives to highlight the diverse and often conflicting ensemble of elements associated with a certain manifestation of a phenomenon. This means examining how it takes on a specific formation and also what makes that formation work, what gives it efficacy and legitimacy in a particular epoch. Genealogy requires attention to sources and openness to the detritus of history, to elements and connections often deemed unworthy of consideration or inessential to historical understanding.13 Yet, seeing genealogy as marking disruptions or discontinuities presumes a semblance of continuity and even narrative for it to problematize, which is why I understand it to function together with the work of the historian.
While genealogy as attention to the transfers and permutations of particular historical formations—as a “hazardous play of dominations”—retains a diachronic sense, I regard archaeology as a more synchronically attuned approach.14 Archaeology moves sideways and within a layer being analyzed. It probes and illumines the connections and influences surrounding the object while acknowledging that object as porous. Rigorous archaeology means examining not merely a certain idea but also the material practices, institutions, symbolic media, and political and economic formations that experience, shape, and manifest it. In attending to the distinctive nature of the layer, it serves to fashion the moment of rupture or discontinuity even while contributing to genealogy, which asks how this discontinuous singularity is nevertheless transferred to a new context.
My project straddles the bounds of historical redescription and constructive theory, and is in this way re/constructive. I uncover what I claim are implicit theologies at work in patristic thought. These ancient thinkers make use of the nature and practices of money in the broader culture, employing them in a conceptual edifice upon which to construct images of and make claims about what God is like and how God acts. My tactics of salvaging such submerged conceptual debris are in part constructive, for I occasionally supply what is left unsaid and seek to provide a systematization to ancient ideas that is not immediately evident in their context. I do so not with both eyes on the past—as if that were even possible—but with one on contemporary concerns about the ways in which theological discourse has shaped and continually offers implicit legitimation to concepts, practices, and institutions that structure the present.
As a re/construction, my approach brings me alongside certain contemporary constructive theological or ethical projects that draw on a theological heritage to produce new paradigms for socioeconomic critique and action. Voices within the field of constructive theology usually advocate concrete political ends and lifestyle or policy modifications, enacting a theological vision within social, political, or economic spheres. They typically rehearse and problematize a particular social and conceptual challenge and then offer a theological response as the oppositional word of correction. This approach may also be termed homiletical, for it emerges out of a long history of Christian preaching and draws on the authority of Scripture and tradition to confront the world and exhort believers toward action. Yet what is needed, in my view, is more light on the realities to which such prescriptions seek to respond, greater self-reflexivity on their modes of response, and investigation of how their theological and ethical engagements may have already helped construct the circumstances against which they protest. I therefore seek to prioritize redescription and defer prescriptive remedies. This is not to pretend that redescription is somehow neutral, disinterested, or apolitical. It is, rather, to pursue both the immanent critique of theology and theology as immanent critique.15
Furthermore, most constructive, prescriptive theological responses appear to function hand in hand with the aforementioned tendency to posit sharp contrasts between theology and economy. I do not belabor such differences in this study; in fact, I take them for granted. Assuming that Christology and money are divergent spheres, that Christ does not equal money, I do not outline what might be termed “dis-analogies” or discontinuities between them. Not only is Christian rhetorical distance from wealth a well-worn path, but recent theological reflection has made much of the supposedly dissonant divine economy of gift and gratuity that stands at odds with monetary exchange. Finding such conversations overdetermined, I regard it a much more interesting and illuminating task to pursue affinities between monetary economy and theological discourse, considering the more counterintuitive and controversial points of commonality.
Finally, since constructive theological analyses of money and economy often exhibit a reactive concern to emphasize difference, my exploration of similarities may unearth submerged connections that kindle such anxieties. Might the modern need to drive a wedge so quickly between theology and the monetary economic realm stem in part from their close connection and the apparent scandal this would bring? It is precisely this reactionary response to ostensive scandal that we should resist, so that we might consider both the reasons why this close association is taken as problematic and also reflect on the obsessive need to cover it up. While my project builds toward points of connection and mutual influence, it also raises the question of whether intervention and praxis require the contrastive, oppositional stance that is the norm in prescriptive proposals. What might accepting money’s influence on theology and theology’s shaping of economic order mean for theological projects of personal, communal, and societal transformation?
Monetary economy as theopolitical
Two current conversations in which this study participates concern the theological backgrounds to modern politics and to the modern economy, respectively. These discussions have in many ways developed distinctly. This is partly the result of the conceptual and methodological rupture between politics and economics that characterizes much modern thought. It is also due to the dichotomous and at times oppositional construal of political and economic spheres in the work of these conversations’ symbolic progenitors: Carl Schmitt and Max Weber. Schmitt’s retrieval of a theological aura to modern politics and sovereignty in Political Theology was couched in a resistance to the encroaching economic sphere.16 Politics as the offspring of the theological was championed against economy as the implicitly godless realm of “disenchantment.”
Although the notion of economic disenchantment invokes Weberian thought, Weber is recognized as being an advocate of free-market principles, even if his sociology included important analyses of political economic power and domination, as well as critiques of bureaucratization. Weber’s analysis of the relations between religion and economy, famously set forth in The Protestant Ethic, construes economy without significant reference to the political sphere.17 The result is that both scholars bequeath a legacy of inquiry into either theology and politics or theology and economics.18 Yet the interpenetration and mutual construction of political and economic realms, increasingly recognized in the scholarship, means that theological reflection must take both economics and politics as simultaneous objects of analysis, and that both must be considered in tandem for their influence upon theological reflection.
We can therefore speak of “theopolitical economy” to denote this ongoing interaction between theological discourse and the political and economic spheres. By theopolitics and the theopolitical I mean a “zone of indistinction” between theology and politics in the discursive realm.19 This is both a conceptual and historical marker. Conceptually, we can speak of the ways that religious talk of the divine merges with language of rule, authority, and sovereignty attributed to emperors, kings, or the state, for instance. Historically, such a meshing has concrete manifestations and is perhaps more observable in the ancient world and in societies not subject to the religious/secular distinction that is characteristic of modernity. Yet part of Schmitt’s contribution was an insistence that a theological framework remained relevant for assessing modernity’s political formations, a claim taken up in debates about its theological heritage among thinkers such as Hans Blumenberg and Karl Löwith.20 Schmitt’s impulse was not so much an attempt to undo or reverse secularization as it was an acknowledgment of the secular realm’s own genealogical relations to theology. The conceptual purchase of the idea of theopolitics, therefore, stems partly from the persistence of this interpenetration of spheres in modern and ostensibly secular contexts. Recognizing this enduring link is useful for elucidating sources of the influence and traction of certain economic and political ideas, drawing as they may from potent, if now implicit, theological concepts whose effects continue in transmuted form.21
By monetary economy I mean the systems of relations and corresponding institutions, practices, and legal frameworks that enable exchange with monetary standards, accounts, and tokens. I reject the popularized view that money is a tool created spontaneously and merely to minimize frictions in trade that arise naturally and inevitably out of bartering economies. The most robust historical, sociological, and anthropological work on the matter recognizes this position as untenable. Rather, as introduced above, money is a tactic of sovereignty, an established system of abstract accounting with attendant symbols and tokens, one that ties spaces of economic production and exchange to channels of indebtedness to and commerce with governing powers. Money is an enforced set of proportions and terms of exchange, one that is quite often imposed and that necessitates hierarchy. Money brings sovereign categories of value into exchange relations, formalizing and quantifying a narrow set of patterns of production, reciprocity, and consumption. To the conceptual coercion sovereign power conveys through money by demarcating reality according to its arbitrary codifications, it supplements the material violence seen in punishments for counterfeiting, coin clipping, or tax evasion, for instance. The monetary circuit has always been vigorously policed. A more thorough analysis of monetary economy thus calls for attention to the political realm and to dynamics of sovereignty and administrative governance, particularly in the West with its specific theological, political, and economic heritage.22
The idea of “the West” itself operates as a general conceptual construct in this study. To demarcate the West geospatially appears futile in light of the colonial legacy and the globalization of forms of political economy associated with Europe. As Moira Fradinger remarks in her trenchant analysis of violence and political formation in Western tradition, “The ‘West’ has always had porous borders, though culturally construed as having an identity on the basis of establishing its ‘other’—a Eurocentrism that has been thoroughly deconstructed throughout the twentieth century.”23 For Fradinger, however, the West persists as a useful placeholder for “a political tradition of thought that became dominant within the geopolitical space of the European capitalist colonial powers born after the fall of feudalism.”24 The West indexes a constellation of geographic, political, economic, and theoretical formations in Europe that makes use of a fictional heritage in the classical world. Such resources were drawn upon in the process of forming oppositional nation-state and ethnic groups as well as through confronting and colonizing cultural others. In fact, monetary economy and the rise and spread of capitalism are deeply tied up with this colonial project.
It is a particular irony that the region that would become Europe—long considered a cultural and intellectual backwater by classical and late antique civilizations—should, through a remarkable history of rhetorical reversal, construe Greece, Rome, and early Christian empire as forebears.25 Such a site must be thoroughly provincialized in order to contextualize its universalist claims and clarify its dissimulation of these self-constructed origins.26 In turning to Greco-Roman and early Christian sources, therefore, I consider enduring authoritative loci in the West’s self-fashioning. These theological and symbolic sources combine with the operations of economy, which itself becomes central to Europe’s development. My interest is in the conglomeration of late antique thought and practice that was conveyed to emerging European societies in Christian theology, pastoral practice, and imperial administration. My suspicion is that the monetary economic theological tropes and correlated ecclesial practices that I uncover remain hard at work in various phases of the West’s development.27
Sovereignty, governmentality, and divine oikonomia
Examining the complex developments of economic reason and monetary power in the West has brought me into extended conversation with the work of Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben. Foucault’s own genealogy of aspects of Western society looked to Greco-Roman and late antique thought for points of discontinuity with later formations in medieval and early modern society. His retrievals simultaneously suggest moments of prefiguring, when practices and mentalities in the ancient world can be glimpsed as echoes in modernity. My study converges, in particular, with Foucault’s examination of “governmentality,” a term denoting the new focus on governmental reason and the tactics for demarcating and managing populations and nurturing the biological lives and conduct of citizens that emerges in the sixteenth century and influences modern statecraft.
Foucault suggests that Christianity, with its “utterly new” ensemble of pastoral power, provided a kind of “prelude” to techniques of governance adopted and disseminated in early modernity.28 He focuses less on the symbolic, theological, or conceptual systems at work than on diverse practices and techniques—an important genealogical corrective to historiography done as mere intellectual history. Yet Foucault does recall the image of the divine shepherd that informs practices of pastoral oversight and governance. At a very general level, God depicted as the nurturing caretaker of a flock resonates and correlates with pastoral management of a congregation. One might trace the permutations of this ensemble of strategies and techniques associated with this theological trope as it influences the political sphere. Specters of pastor and shepherd lurk behind—but do not lead to in simplistic linear fashion—the modern governmental state as disciplinary caretaker of its subjects and populace.
A central theme in Foucault’s genealogy is the transformation in the West from more centralized modes of sovereign rule to diffuse and decentered techniques of governance. We can no longer locate power and control in a single center of agency, and the methods of oversight have shifted from a punitive authority over life and death to immanent and internalized strategies that shape and direct life. A major source of this change and contributor to the rise of governmentality is “the introduction of economy into political practice.”29 Although Foucault gestures toward economic themes and practices in pastoral governance, he stops short of a full elaboration, leaving unanalyzed the economic dimension that connects the early Christian imaginary and pastoral power with economized, early modern government.
Agamben takes up the problem and seeks to challenge and supplement it. A central claim of his genealogical work is that the tensions between sovereignty and economic governance, which for Foucault rupture in the sixteenth century, are present from the beginnings of Christianity.30 Furthermore, these distinctions between sovereignty and governance can be seen in Christian models of God worked out in early Trinitarian debates. Moving beyond Foucault’s passing references to the divine shepherd, Agamben makes theology a key object of analysis, for its language documents a site of extensive theorization around the political implications of transcendence and immanence. For Agamben, the rupture of sovereignty and governance stems from their peculiar and unstable union in Christian ideas of the godhead, seen in the monarchy of the Father and the delegated government of the Son, a discursive articulation always already bound up with political reflection on tactics of rule and administration drawn from the wider culture.
My project engages as well as challenges and supplements these approaches. I find salutary Agamben’s focus on a type of continuity that allows for in-depth exploration of potential links between late antique Christian thought and modern developments. The possibility is arguably present in Foucault, despite his reception as a theorist of discontinuity. Agamben’s study draws out this element and sets it in the context of an extended reflection on early Christian thought in light of contemporary questions of sovereignty and governance. His inquiry also demonstrates that the complex and ambivalent relationship between sovereign reign and government can be discerned in a host of contexts across a broad temporal spectrum. His purpose is not to claim a unified and stable figure over time, but rather to limn the space of a series of conceptual transformations and developments. His work also converges with contemporary concerns about theopolitics and theology’s relation to modernity, showing this relation in ancient contexts.31 Agamben demonstrates that the theological and political have been informing one another all along. Within the dyad he makes space for economic considerations.
Agamben makes space for economics, yet his inquiry stops short of assessing actual economic dynamics or the operations of economy proper and money itself in the theological and political concepts he explores. Working within one archaic valence of economy (oikonomia) as government and management, Agamben provides little analysis of how the ensemble of factors he uncovers is related to concrete economic factors such as the exchange and circulation of material goods, resources, and money. This is not an ancillary concern, for oikonomia, I will argue, primarily indexes the management of actual resources and even money with an eye toward profit, gain, or growth and retains such traces in its figurative employment. Furthermore, as I will show, ideas of money, resource management, exchange, and even coin minting continually inform models of divinity, visions of divine reign and governance, and, by extension, theopolitical considerations of sovereignty and administration.
My study serves to carry certain of Agamben’s insights about divine and earthly government forward into a discussion of economy proper.32 Addressing matters of actual economics returns us to concerns raised by Foucault about the influence of the economy upon governmental reason and models of statecraft. That modern government and politics find themselves in continual confrontation with economic factors and concerns is, as I will show, part of an ensemble that has operated in Western thought and practice at least since late antiquity. The concrete management of bodies, resources, and money, so central to modern governmentality, has as one precursor the inclusion of such a material focus in early Christian articulations of God’s economy and work in redemption. Again, modern problems are not simple repetitions of ancient ones. But, like the theopolitical model of sovereignty and governance explored by Agamben, the patristic schema I retrieve of God as an economic administrator accomplishing redemption through Christ as currency is useful in analyzing ancient, medieval, and modern contexts. It fills out the picture we have about the West’s theopolitical heritage by incorporating indispensable consideration of money and the economy.
Using money as a central object of analysis also helpfully straddles the poles of sovereignty and governance.33 Money as a sign and representation instituted by sovereign power is simultaneously a central means of governance. Bureaucratic administrations rise up around monetary circuits, and calculative techniques of oversight work to support taxation, facilitate measurements of economic metrics, and inform analysis of market dynamics, for instance. Examining the monetary influence upon doctrinal formation takes us to the heart of government, where money as an instrument of rule, administration, and conquest informs ideals of God the Father as a reigning sovereign who delegates administration of the oikonomia to the Son as a governor, and of Christ as a payment within this economy that secures divine victory and extends God’s reign over creation.
Of homology, metaphor, and resonance
In pursuing affinities between monetary practice and theological articulations at certain moments, I seek to move beyond the study of analogous concepts to claim that historical interaction and mutual shaping of fields has occurred. The relation between theology and money can therefore be described as homologous, exceeding analogy and involving historical relations and moments of coemergence. Homology is a term derived from the admittedly problematic discourse of genetics, and by its use I intend none of the reductionist (and often racist) claims of pure identity, fixed ancestral lineage, or bloodline that are sometimes associated with its deployment in the sciences.34 Instead, I regard homology as a useful correlate to a genealogical approach. Homology as I use it posits that similarities between two fields can be understood not merely as coincidentally analogous and thematically or structurally similar but as partially the result of actual historical and conceptual interaction between the two spheres.
While homology as used in the natural sciences generally infers a common ancestor from which two distinct species are said to descend, the application is more flexible in our conceptual and discursive context. Resisting the essentialist quest for origins while employing homology means that similarities between fields signal a horizon of confluence that is always receding. Like the time before the rupture of religion and politics, this horizon invokes what has been called a “prehistory,” that which is inaccessible to historical thought, yet which enables and grounds historical analysis of particular phenomena.35 To speak of theology and monetary economy as homologous highlights the ways language about the nature and function of money is taken up by theology to crystallize theology’s unique concepts. It is also to signal the ways theological language about debt, payment, and exchange is imported into descriptions of what money is or should be like or how it is deployed.
Homology acknowledges that both implicit and explicit linguistic and conceptual influence have taken place, while forestalling claims of origin. In other words, I do not argue that theology simply derives from the monetary economic realm, operating as a superstructural screen for a more primary or ontologically foundational economic base. Neither is monetary economy simply an incarnation of a preceding theological reality. The intermeshing that I highlight points to a horizon of union between money and theology that recedes from grasp and yet that can be posited. Put differently, the dialectical influence between money and theology is ongoing, and to claim one as originary disrupts what is meaningful about this mutual relation and falsely arrests their continual movement.
In addition, talk of homology invokes the literary critical approach known as “new economic criticism,” whose methods inform how I read theological texts in relation to economy.36 New economic criticism examines texts with attention to the economic context of their production as well as the operation of metaphorical or symbolic economies within the literary field itself. Textual criticism “is predicated on the existence and disclosure of parallels and analogies between linguistic and economic systems.”37 It also posits homologies in which the coordinate operations of particular material and literary economies portend a common, usually symbolic-economic influence. Light can be shed on the meanings in a text when its economic context is considered, even as internal symbolic economies, or “tropic exchanges,” within the text are elucidated with economic paradigms.38 I attend to monetary economic traces in theological texts, evidence of contact with or influence by broader economic dynamics taking place in the context of discursive production. I also delineate textual economies, ways in which networks of exchanges of metaphors and symbols contribute new cognitive content and theological meaning. I suggest further that part of the work of the texts in question is to shape economic postures and practices. The network of relations is vast and complex, and I outline what I take to be several crucial and determinative links.
As we consider homologous relations, we should recall that metaphors matter. Indeed, metaphors function as one key site of homological fusion between theological and monetary registers. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that linking terms through metaphor contributes to actual conceptual content.39 Metaphors are neither vacuous redundancies nor merely ornamental language; they create and enhance systems of thought. They leave lasting cognitive links in discourse, upon individual bodies, and within collective conceptual frameworks. Metaphors are essential meaning-making tools that often couple mental processes with material or physical experiences. A concrete set of attributes is applied in a figurative arrangement, often through disjunction and dissonance, with a new relation or set of associations coming into being. Metaphors bring out previously unseen aspects of the metaphorically depicted object and transform how it is interpreted and understood.
Metaphors can thus contribute to a legacy of substantive linkage and potent affinity between disparate discourses and objects. Metaphors linger, ossify, and become embedded in social understandings and resultant institutions. Once a metaphor has become fully entrenched and assumed within a framework of thought, it may sometimes be described as dead. A dead metaphor fails to provoke as it once may have, for its dissonance has been absorbed through repeated use, yet the linkages it facilitates persist and serve the conceptual structure.40
Thus, as I will explore, importing monetary and broader economic language into theology informs theological systems in unique and substantive ways. To speak of Christ metaphorically as currency and coin, for instance, is to ascribe to Christ key attributes of monetary economy in ways that establish elements of Christ’s identity. These attributes in turn become footholds and bearing points for subsequent theological formulations and expanding networks of doctrinal claims. The monetary metaphor may thus come to inform the logic of the entire system. As a central building block of the broader edifice, the metaphor may even be forgotten or dismissed. This can be seen in the way the metaphor of redemption, used to speak of salvation, can be repeatedly invoked in Christian context without awareness of its thoroughly economic derivation and sense. The term continues to operate in a system of relays of meaning that may reactivate this economic reference in ways that go unnoticed.
Inasmuch as the sources of metaphor imbue a particular concept with their material or affective characteristics, slippage and reciprocal influence can occur. When they do, the sources of metaphorical ascription may in turn be shaped by the concept to which they have been related. As Kathryn Tanner notes, “The simple fact of use in discussion of divine matters, for example, may give the stamp of approval to the social and political practices to which reference is made.”41 In our case, it is possible that money, as a source of theological metaphor, may take on a sacral hue and heavenly aura in its affiliations with the identity and work of Christ. The form this influence takes is at least twofold. At one level, money is associated with the identity and work of God, and this association serves to provide a sacred weight and spiritual authority to money as a type of implicit legitimation. At another level beyond simple endorsement, the associations may provide new models for deploying money after divine patterns, modifying economic administration in the process. While such influential patterns emerge explicitly in Christian ethical exhortation on the godly uses of money, perhaps more significant are the tacit models provided by the cosmic acts God accomplishes through divine economy. The pastoral practices of imitating Christ and his redemptive economic management develop into institutionalized channels and official roles. The spiritually figurative and theological uses of money may thus double back upon the monetary economic world to shape new economic practices, whether in the church, the Christian empire, or, eventually, post-Christian society at large.
Finally, I have also spoken of resonances that exist between forms of political economic thought and practice, on the one hand, and theological discourse, on the other. Resonance invokes a sonic metaphor to describe the relationship.42 Agamben claims that analogy—and, in my view, homology even more so—challenges logical dichotomies between distinct conceptual spheres. It does so “not to take them up into a higher synthesis but to transform them into a force field traversed by polar tensions, where (as in an electro-magnetic field) their substantial identities evaporate.”43 Not unlike Agamben’s “electro-magnetic field,” the relations I explore are those whose mutual impact might be glimpsed, if fleetingly, but whose actual relational structures we can never posit as stable in order to demarcate and fix.
The notion of resonance has been notably deployed by William Connolly in his exploration of the affinities between capitalism and American evangelicalism.44 By “resonance” Connolly means to indicate the similar affective postures or “spiritualities” and modes of acting in the world engendered by these two systems of thought, feeling, and practice.45 The term “resonance” speaks to the links we infer must be there to govern analogous patterns of response and action, such as those between pundits of neoliberal economic policy and subjects within the evangelical church in the United States. Yet Connolly’s intervention remains gestural at the level of demarcating resonance. One senses with him that the affinities are there, and that his intuitive associations are probably correct, but one cannot get a picture of how the relation operates or where it comes from.
Resonance has effects as one object vibrates with another, yet the manner of impact remains almost imperceptible. Lines between what is proper to one field and another become blurred as what is properly within one is moved by the other, yet remains distinct. When I compare monetary economy, with its attendant formations of sovereignty and government, with theological models, I mean by resonances trace presence of one system within the other, as well as the implicit effects of one upon the other, effects whose lines of causality and fixed structures of relation are elusive, constantly receding from the observable horizon. Similar to an imprint—the stamp, seal, or coin impress—resonance speaks to the mark that is left by the other, yet expresses it in dynamic fashion.
“Divine currency” as a theological concept resonates with the operations of monetary economy, sovereignty, and governmental administration. In various ways, each sphere vibrates with the other, but we cannot posit origins or definitive causalities without fixing the movement falsely. Such imposed stabilization may nevertheless be useful heuristically in moments of analysis. I seek greater specificity than Connolly in demarcating such resonance by showing the direct linguistic, metaphorical, and conceptual interchange among monetary economy, doctrinal formation, and emerging forms of pastoral economy and imperial administration. It is this robust basis of theological, practical, and institutional interrelation that makes later affiliations such as those marked by Connolly possible in the first place, as this early fusion of Christian thought and practice with monetary ideas and institutions continues as a fund on which to draw in creative redeployment across the centuries.
1. The distinctions among such terms are explored in, e.g., Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, trans. and ed. by Walter Kaufman (New York: Random House, 1967); Michel Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984), 76–100; Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 2002); Giorgio Agamben, The Signature of All Things: On Method, trans. Luca D’Isanto and Kevin Attell (Cambridge, MA: Zone Books, 2009).
2. For the market’s supposedly religious structure, see, e.g., Dwight N. Hopkins, “The Religion of Globalization,” in Religions/Globalizations: Theories and Cases, ed. Dwight N. Hopkins et al. (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001), 7–32; Harvey Cox, The Market as God (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016). On modern economic attitudes and practices as purportedly religious, see, e.g., Philip Goodchild, Capitalism and Religion: The Price of Piety (London: Routledge, 2002); Philip Goodchild, Theology of Money (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); D. Stephen Long and Nancy Ruth Fox, Calculated Futures: Theology, Ethics, and Economics (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2007). On the discipline of modern economics as somehow implicitly religious or theological, see Robert H. Nelson, Reaching for Heaven on Earth: The Theological Meaning of Economics (Savage, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1991); Robert H. Nelson, Economics as Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001).
3. The tendency is rightly problematized in Hent de Vries, “On General and Divine Economy: Talal Asad’s Genealogy of the Secular and Emmanuel Levinas’s Critique of Capitalism, Colonialism, and Money,” in Powers of the Secular Modern: Talal Asad and His Interlocutors, ed. David Scott and Charles Hirschkind (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 113–33. See also Kathryn Tanner, “Is Capitalism a Belief System?” Anglican Theological Review 92, no. 4 (2010): 617–35.
4. The recent critique of market faith by Cox, Market, 8 is an example of this approach: Cox describes the market as an “ersatz religion” because it “exhibits the characteristics of classical faith,” and “because the market, like the graven idols of old, was constructed by human hands.” Here he curiously implies that classical (read: authentic) religion somehow falls outside the bounds of human construction despite clearly being an element of human culture and society. Furthermore, if social construction is the criterion for designating something as ersatz, apparently all other elements of human culture qualify and are, hence, somehow disingenuous. We also see here the familiar specter of idolatry loosely applied to the economic realm before grounds for such attribution and implied critique have been established. The parallels Cox goes on to draw among the market, religion, and the biblical God remain as allusions and appear as a form of jouissance, and are thus mitigated in persuasive power.
5. In this regard, analyses associated with so-called Radical Orthodoxy rightly demonstrate the theological precursors to the modern order, while unhelpfully maintaining a predetermined fixation on orthodoxy versus heresy. Such approaches think that if theology has contributed to present economic regimes, it has done so only as a “perversion” of “authentic” Christian thought and practice. Yet this occludes analysis of how mainstream, apparently orthodox theology and ecclesial institutions have, in fact, shaped the contemporary economic order. It certainly also excludes the possibility that orthodox theology is informed by the economic sphere, lest this render theology “impure.” See, e.g., John Milbank, Theology and Social Theory: Beyond Secular Reason, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2006); D. Stephen Long, Divine Economy: Theology and the Market (London: Routledge, 2000); Daniel M. Bell, The Economy of Desire: Christianity and Capitalism in a Postmodern World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012). The work of Adrian Pabst represents a more sophisticated and nuanced development in this line of analysis and laudably engages in genealogical critique of the West in light of theology’s relations to economy and politics. It does, however, invoke the specter of orthodoxy in maintaining that theology, when “properly figured,” provides a radical alternative to current social order. See, e.g., Adrian Pabst, “Modern Sovereignty in Question: Theology, Democracy and Capitalism,” Modern Theology 24, no. 4 (2010): 570–602.
6. The basic template for this approach was first laid down in the path-breaking M. Douglas Meeks, God the Economist: The Doctrine of God and Political Economy (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1989). More nuanced and recent developments include Kathryn Tanner, Economy of Grace (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2005) and Nimi Wariboko, God and Money: A Theology of Money in a Globalizing World (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2008). Tanner’s approach is informed by Pierre Bourdieu’s methodology and to some extent by that of Jean-Joseph Goux; see Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977) and Jean-Joseph Goux, Symbolic Economies: After Marx and Freud, trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1990). Wariboko’s methodological basis is less articulated but draws in part from Paul Tillich’s correlationist method; see Paul Tillich, Theology of Culture, ed. Robert C. Kimball (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959). Both Tanner and, in particular, Wariboko include important literature reviews of various additional approaches to theology and economy that I will not repeat here.
7. For an important critique of structuralist ahistoricism and an argument for a processual understanding of signs instead, see Samuel Weber, Institution and Interpretation, rev. ed. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002). A unique attempt to historicize the structural operations of theological and economic signs by way of network theory is Mark C. Taylor, Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World Without Redemption (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004).
8. See, e.g., Geoffrey K. Ingham, The Nature of Money (Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2004); David Graeber, Debt: The First 5,000 Years (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2010); John N. Smithin, ed., What is Money? (London: Routledge, 2000); L. Randall Wray, ed., Credit and State Theories of Money: The Contributions of A. Mitchell Innes (Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2004); Georg Friedrich Knapp, The State Theory of Money, abr. ed., ed. H. M. Lucas and James Bonar (London: Macmillan, 1924); and John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1936).
9. This very preliminary sketch was first outlined in Devin Singh, “Incarnating the Money-Sign: Notes on an Implicit Theopolitics,” Implicit Religion 14, no. 2 (2011): 129–40. The idea of such potential parallelism is not new. Marx, for instance, briefly explores the similarities between money as a representation of value and Christ as a representation of God, considering the forms of alienation that result from both systems. The logic of incarnation proves useful for him in explaining the logic of capital and credit; see his “Comments on James Mill’s Éléments D’ économie Politique” in Karl Marx, Selected Writings, ed. Lawrence Hugh Simon (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1994), 42; see also Enrique Dussel, Las metáforas teológicas de Marx (Estella: Editorial Verbo Divino, 1993). On the centrality of desire in monetary economy, see Noam Yuran, What Money Wants: An Economy of Desire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014).
10. George Tyrell, Christianity at the Crossroads (London: Longmans, 1910), 44.
11. As Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 83 claims: “Genealogy does not oppose itself to history as the lofty and profound gaze of the philosopher might compare to the molelike perspective of the scholar; on the contrary, it rejects the metahistorical deployment of ideal significations and indefinite teleologies. It opposes itself to the search for ‘origins’.” Foucault’s essay appears to be more a close analysis of Nietzsche’s own views, transformed as they necessarily are by Foucault’s paraphrasing, than a programmatic statement of his own methods.
12. Ibid., 90.
13. Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000), 47–71, 237–56 demonstrates this sensitivity when he assesses the “two histories” of capitalism, attending to the master narrative of progress in the agonistic modulation of modes of production as well as the residual yet vitalistic elements present in a historical epoch that seem “anachronistic,” yet provide a necessary supplement to the functioning of that stage.
14. Foucault, “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History,” 83.
15. On immanent criticism see, e.g., Theodor W. Adorno, Prisms, trans. Samuel Weber and Shierry Weber, Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1981), 17–34.
16. Carl Schmitt, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, trans. George Schwab (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005). Opposition between economy and the political is articulated in Carl Schmitt, Roman Catholicism and Political Form, trans. G. L. Ulmen (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996); and Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab, rev. ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007).
17. Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Stephen Kalberg, rev. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). Albert Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism before Its Triumph (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977) is in part an attempt to provide a complementary account of the development of capitalism through a focus on the state and statecraft, which Weber’s primarily psychological account lacks. An important augmentation of Weber that evaluates the European political landscape at the time is Philip S. Gorski, The Protestant Ethic Revisited (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011).
18. This is not to minimize the undeniable import of liberation theology, assessing as it does the interconnection of theological, economic, and political spheres. As a general rule, however, liberation theology lacks genealogical exploration of theology’s role in contributing to the legacy it criticizes. Indeed, theology remains the privileged locus of reflection, such that it provides the objective point of value assessment and the controlling source for solutions to social plight. Furthermore, liberation theology’s debt to Marxist analysis means that diagnosis occurs primarily in the economic realm, with the state often reduced merely to an agent of capital. Admittedly, integration of dependency theory and world systems analysis does render some liberationist critiques more nuanced, considering broader institutional and political factors that engender situations of economic exploitation.
19. Zones of indistinction are explored extensively in Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998).
20. Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983) and Karl Löwith, Meaning in History (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957). Modernity’s theological heritage has been explored in, e.g., Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007); Michael Gillespie, The Theological Origins of Modernity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008); and Brad S. Gregory, The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2012).
21. Studies examining the enduring relevance of theopolitics include Hent de Vries and Lawrence Eugene Sullivan, eds., Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2006); Creston Davis, John Milbank, and Slavoj Žižek, eds., Theology and the Political: The New Debate (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005); Clayton Crockett, Radical Political Theology: Religion and Politics after Liberalism, Insurrections: Critical Studies in Religion, Politics, and Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011); Paul Fletcher, Disciplining the Divine: Toward an (Im)political Theology (Farnham, UK: Ashgate, 2009); and Vincent W. Lloyd, The Problem with Grace: Reconfiguring Political Theology (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011). Attending to a theopolitical zone requires consideration of links between the ostensibly separate religious and secular spheres. Theorists note the co-construction of “religion” and “the secular,” such that these terms presume and require each other; see Talal Asad, Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Talal Asad, Formations of the Secular: Christianity, Islam, Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003); Tomoko Masuzawa, In Search of Dreamtime: The Quest for the Origin of Religion (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993); Tomoko Masuzawa, The Invention of World Religions, or, How European Universalism was Preserved in the Language of Pluralism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); and José Casanova, Public Religions in the Modern World (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).
22. This is not to deny that alternative forms of money can be theorized, as done admirably by Nigel Dodd, The Social Life of Money (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014). It is rather to recognize that in its various historical manifestations thus far, money has always been associated with sovereignty, with some structure of centralized and hierarchical power.
23. Moira Fradinger, Binding Violence: Literary Visions of Political Origins (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2010), 6. The imbrication of the West with colonial others is explored in Enrique Dussel, The Invention of the Americas: Eclipse of “The Other” and the Myth of Modernity, trans. Michael Barber (New York: Continuum, 1995); Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of the Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, and Colonization (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995); and Walter Mignolo, The Darker Side of Western Modernity: Global Futures, Decolonial Options (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011).
24. Fradinger, Binding Violence, 6.
25. Martin Bernal, Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, 3 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987) and Cedric Robinson, An Anthropology of Marxism (London: Ashgate, 2001).
26. Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe; Devin Singh, “Provincializing Christendom: Reviewing John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order,” Syndicate: A New Forum for Theology 2, no. 6 (2015): 177–83.
27. My project speaks to the perception, for instance, that we must assess contemporary American politics in light of the peculiar fusion of economic ideas and conservative Christian values as studied in William E. Connolly, Capitalism and Christianity, American Style (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008). It is also intended to aid studies of the curious merger of Christianity and capitalism in colonial contexts as examined in, e.g., Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, “Millennial Capitalism: First Thoughts on a Second Coming,” Public Culture 12, no. 2 (2000): 291–343 and Webb Keane, Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter (Berkeley: Unversity of California Press, 2007). My study provides a deep archeology of ancient concepts that make themselves felt in novel ways in such modern contexts. Further work is necessary to relate these ancient realities to postcolonial contexts and discourses and to escape the so-called Eurocentric critique of Eurocentrism that persists in attempts to relate ancient Greece and Rome to the modern West; see Enrique Dussel, Postmodernidad y transmodernidad: Diálogos con la filosofia de Gianni Vattimo (Mexico City: Universidad Iberamericana Plantel Golfo Centro, 1999); Walter Mignolo, “Delinking,” Cultural Studies 21, no. 2 (2007): 449–514; Walter Mignolo, “The Geopolitics of Knowledge and the Colonial Difference,” South Atlantic Quarterly 101, no. 1 (2002): 56–97; and Robert Bernasconi, “African Philosophy’s Challenge to Continental Philosophy,” in Postcolonial African Philosophy: A Critical Reader, ed. Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze (London: Blackwell, 1997), 183–196.
28. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–1978, ed. Michael Senellart and Arnold I. Davidson (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 184.
29. Ibid., 95. On the nature of sovereignty, see F. H. Hinsley, Sovereignty, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982); Jo-Anne Pemberton, Sovereignty: Interpretations (Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Cynthia Weber, Simulating Sovereignty: Intervention, the State, and Symbolic Exchange (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Kathryn A. Morgan, ed., Popular Tyranny: Sovereignty and its Discontents in Ancient Greece (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003); and Schmitt, Political Theology.
30. Giorgio Agamben, The Kingdom and the Glory: For a Theological Genealogy of Economy and Government, trans. Lorenzo Chiesa and Matteo Mandarini (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011) and Giorgio Agamben, “What is an Apparatus?” and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009).
31. This orientation comes from his sustained engagement with Carl Schmitt over the question of political theology; see Agamben, Homo Sacer and Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
32. While I will at times refer to what I term “lacunae” in Agamben’s study that relate to his neglect of properly economic themes that circulate in the work, my reading can be seen more charitably as a development of the “potentiality” latent in what remains unsaid in his own, as noted by Leland de la Durantaye, Giorgio Agamben: A Critical Introduction (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), 9: “For Agamben, the philosophical element—rich in potentiality—is that which, while present, goes unstated in a work and is thereby left for others to read between the lines and formulate in their own.”
33. See Tero Auvinen, “At the Intersection of Sovereignty and Biopolitics: The Di-Polaric Spatializations of Money,” Foucault Studies 9 (2010): 5–34.
34. On the ways in which such biological metaphors have structured biblical criticism of textual relations, “families,” and “offspring,” and concomitant quests for purity, see Yii-Jan Lin, The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016).
35. Agamben, Signature, 84–90.
36. Seminal texts include Marc Shell, The Economy of Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978); Marc Shell, Money, Language, and Thought: Literary and Philosophical Economies from the Medieval to the Modern Era (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982); and Goux, Symbolic Economies. An excellent introduction to the movement and collection of representative essays is Martha Woodmansee and Mark Osteen, eds., The New Economic Criticism: Studies at the Intersection of Literature and Economics (London and New York: Routledge, 1999). Also important is the critique and modification of the homological method in Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981).
37. Woodmansee and Osteen, New Economic Criticism, 11.
38. Shell, Economy, 7.
39. George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Metaphors We Live By (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003); Paul Ricoeur, The Rule of Metaphor: The Creation of Meaning in Language, trans. Robert Czerny (London: Routledge, 2003); Paul Ricoeur, Figuring the Sacred: Religion, Narrative, and Imagination, trans. David Pellauer, ed. Mark I. Wallace (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1995); and Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Biblical Narrative in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur: A Study in Hermeneutics and Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
40. As Friedrich Nietzsche, “On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873),” in Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language, trans. and ed. by Sander L. Gilman, Carole Blair, and David J. Parent (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 250 infamously suggested, it is assemblages of dead metaphors that constitute truth. Without entering into the broader debate about epistemology that such a claim raises, what we can draw from it are the importance and centrality of metaphorical ascription in the thought systems we inherit and create. Remarkably, Nietzsche described such dead metaphors as “coins (Münzen) which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.” I would characterize dead metaphors as coins that have lost their pictures yet still function and circulate as coins, a common reality in the ancient world. They continue to enable transactions (of meaning) but have lost their distinctive imagery and evocative power.
41. Kathryn Tanner, “Trinity,” in The Blackwell Companion to Political Theology, ed. Peter Scott and William T. Cavanaugh (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 320, emphasis added. Tanner is careful to note, however, that such use may also provide “a critical commentary on what is problematic about the social and political practices of the times” (ibid.). The theological impact of metaphor has been extensively explored by Sallie McFague, Metaphorical Theology: Models of God in Religious Language (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1982).
42. On the broader implications of sound and vibration in the intellectual life and for communal transformation, see William Cheng, Just Vibrations: The Purpose of Sounding Good (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2016).
43. Agamben, Signature, 20.
44. Connolly, Capitalism and Christianity, 4–5, 40–41.
45. The role of affect in monetary economy as a site of “secular faith” has been helpfully explored in Martijn Konings, The Emotional Logic of Capitalism: What Progressives Have Missed (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015).