Posts Tagged ‘Saint Augustine

10
Jun
11

St Augustine vs. Empire

At some point I may get around to writing about the ‘theological turn’ in contemporary critical thought, that is the increasing tendency for communists, anarchists etc. to refer to religious discourse. For now I will just be collecting together some examples, starting with this one from Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri’s Empire (2000):

”While this Heavenly City is on pilgrimage on earth, it calls out all peoples and so collects a society of aliens, speaking all languages’ (Saint Augustine)

 …In this regard we might take inspiration from Saint Augustine’s vision of a project to contest the decadent Roman Empire. No limited community could succeed and provide an alternative to imperial rule; only a universal, catholic community bringing together all populations and all languages in a common journey could  accomplish this. The divine city is a universal city of aliens, coming together, cooperating, communicating. Our pilgrimage on earth, however, in contrast to Augustine’s, has no transcendent telos beyond; it is and remains absolutely immanent. Its continuous movement,gathering aliens in community, making this world its home, is both means and end, or rather a means without end.

From this perspective the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) is the great Augustinian project of modern times. In the first decades of the twentieth century the Wobblies, as they were called, organized powerful strikes and rebellions across the United States, from Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Paterson, New Jersey, to Everett, Washington. The perpetual movement of the Wobblies was indeed an immanent pilgrimage, creating a new society in the shell of the old…  The primary focus of the IWW was the universality of its project. Workers of all languages and races across the world (although in fact they only made it as far as Mexico) and workers of all trades should come together in ‘‘One Big Union.’’’

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