Countering claims of its impossibility, this paper argues for economic theology as an intelligible figure of contemporary political rationality and organization, and a distinctive analytical strategy in relation to forms of liberal and neoliberal governmentality and the contemporary management of social life. As an analytical strategy, it has two arms: an institutional one, drawing upon Michel Foucault’s work on the pastorate; and a conceptual one, following from Giorgio Agamben on oikonomia, order and providence. Economic theology was the arcana of 20th-century debates on both political theology and governmentality and a condition for their emergence. It formed the horizon of Carl Schmitt’s intervention of a political theology in response to Max Weber, and, as the pastorate, it was for Foucault the historical background of the emergence of the liberal arts of government. While appearing as a new paradigm, it thus has a measure of priority over our more established ones. Furthermore, to the extent that economic theology comes to occupy the place of political rationality in contemporary liberal-democratic societies, the political becomes less a rational public sphere and more a form of public liturgy.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 20. July 2018