Politics as a Confession: Confronting the Enemy Within

Mitchell Dean*, Daniel Zamora

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


    In this article, we claim, firstly, that the turn to an “ethical” politics focused on subjectivity and its transformation, announced by post-structuralist theorists in the 1970s, can be found today in forms of progressive politics, illustrated by struggles against racism and their articulation by consultants and educators. Secondly, this turn entails targeting the “enemy within,” whether it be the inner fascist (Guattari, Foucault) or white privilege (Di Angelo, Kendi). Rather than an extension of Lasch’s therapeutic “culture of narcissism,” it is a turn to practices reminiscent of public rituals of expiation of guilt and acts of purification (exomologesis) characterizing what Weber referred to as “sects.” Pace Foucault, the “main danger” lies not in the “subjectifying” practices of the human sciences descended from auricular confession and the Christian pastorate, but rather the displacement of formal politics and attendant “civil religion” (Bellah) by conflicts between charismatic sects claiming exemplary subjectivity and virtuosity.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPolitical Theology
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)82-97
    Number of pages16
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

    Bibliographical note

    Published online: 02 Aug 2022.


    • Confession
    • Sect
    • Charisma
    • Anti-racism
    • Civil religion
    • Subjectivity
    • Foucault

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