Postsecular History (Book)

Postsecular History: Political Theology and the Politics of Time (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) revisits and revises the theological and political character of periodization by tracing powerful efforts to divide time into past, present, and future, and by critiquing political partitions of history into the Ancient, Medieval, Modern, and Postmodern. In the book I develop a critique of theopolitical periodization, specifically concerning the proclamation of novelty and succession in the prefix ‘post’ that precedes the ‘postsecular.’ For an introduction to the book see here for an interview called “Histories of the Postsecular” where I discuss the main themes of the book and their relation to my other projects.

PH Cover_2021-page-001

Brief Presentation

In early 2021 I gave a short presentation of the book’s argument on a panel hosted by the Posthumanism Institute at Brock University. See here for the text and below for a recording:

Cover Description

This book explores how contemporary approaches to the meaning of time and history follow patterns that are simultaneously political and theological. Even after the postsecular critiques of Christianity, religion, and secularity, many influential ways of dividing time and history continue to be formed by providential narratives that mediate between experience and expectation in movements from promise to fulfilment. In response to persistent theological influences within ostensibly secular ways of understanding time and history, Postsecular History revisits and revises the concept of periodization by tracing powerful efforts to divide time into past, present, and future, and by critiquing historical partitions between the Reformation and Enlightenment. Developing a postsecular critique of theopolitical periodization in six chapters, Postsecular History questions how relations of possession, novelty, freedom, and instrumentality implied in the prefix ‘post’ are reproduced in postsecular discourses and the field of political theology.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Political Theology and the Politics of Time

Chapter 3. Postsecular History and the Seventeenth Century Dutch Collegiants

Chapter 4. Fanaticism, Anachronism, and Melville’s Intervals

Chapter 5. Periodization and Providence between Nietzsche and Augustine

Chapter 6. The Regulation of the Subject by the Technology of Time

Chapter 7. Dorothee Sölle’s Postsecular Political Theology of Waiting

Chapter 8. Conclusion

Praise for Postsecular History

We moderns are accustomed to thinking in terms of linear time, often progressing from “pre-” to “post-,” but the political significance of this gesture is rarely acknowledged. In this wide-ranging book, Maxwell Kennel explores the theological sources of this understanding of time and underlines its limitations. Whereas many theopolitical periodizations promise novelty and control, Kennel takes up a posture of patient anticipation oriented by a future that remains mysterious.
– David Newheiser, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Australian Catholic University.

Postsecular History offers invaluable insights into an issue that is crucial not only for political theology, but for redefining temporal periodization in the contemporary world. Kennel’s work focuses on western theopolitical concepts of time and history and fundamentally critiques the aspiration to value-neutrality within certain secular and postsecular concepts.
– Elettra Stimilli, Professor of Theoretical Philosophy, Sapienza University of Rome.

Postsecular History is a deeply researched scholarly work addressing an important topic: the meaning of history and experience of time, analyzed under the perspective of its theological signature. The book challenges theopolitical periodizations of history by questioning the periodizing gesture of the “post-secular.” Kennel undertakes this task by analyzing historians of the Radical Reformation, the politics of periodization in Nietzsche and Augustine, and the emancipatory potential of neglected groups such as the Collegiants and Anabaptists.
– Montserrat Herrero, Professor of Political Philosophy, Universidad de Navarra.