Lecture by Adrian Johnston
June 5, 2023 at 17:00 to June 5, 2023 at 18:30
Sejna soba Filozofskega inštituta, 3. nadstropje
Adrian Johnston, “The Triumph of Theological Economics: God Goes Underground”
Both Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud are very much children of the Enlightenment in certain manners. As such, they each sometimes display a qualified but firm optimism about history inevitably making progress in specific desirable directions. For instance, Freud predicts that continuing scientific and technological advances eventually will drive religiosity from human societies once and for all. Marx likewise forecasts the withering away of religions. Moreover, he treats this predicted process as symptomatic of even more fundamental socioeconomic developments, namely, his (in)famous anticipations of subsequent transitions to socialism and communism. However, the past century of human history obviously has not been kind to any sort of Enlightenment-style progress narratives, Marx’s and Freud’s included. My intervention on this occasion takes inspiration especially from Jacques Lacan’s sober reckoning with a “triumph of religion” defying Freud’s expectations of relentlessly broadening and deepening secularization. I argue that socio-political phenomena of the past several decades bear witness to religious superstructures having infused themselves into economic superstructures. I claim this dynamic has gone so far that contemporary humanity is now largely secular where it believes itself to be religious and religious where it believes itself to be secular. To do justice to this, I plead for a reactivation and updating of Marx’s critique of political economy.
Nonetheless, I propose modifying the infrastructure-superstructure distinction of classical Marxian historical materialism particularly in light of more recent shifts in the relations between the economic and the religious. This modification perhaps helps explain why many of Marx’s prognostications regarding the futures of capitalist societies have not (yet) come to pass.