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Title page for ETD etd-04272016-162856

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Todd, Asante Uzuri
Author's Email Address todd.asante@gmail.com
URN etd-04272016-162856
Title The One and the Many: A Discourse Analysis on Sovereignty in Liberal Civic Republicanism with Prospects for an African American Political Theology
Degree PhD
Department Religion
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Victor Anderson Committee Chair
Ellen T. Armour, Ph.D. Committee Member
Stacey Floyd-Thomas Committee Member
Theodore A. Smith Committee Member
Tracy Sharpley-Whiting Committee Member
  • political theology
  • black theology
  • liberalism
  • civic republicanism
  • sovereignty
  • public theology
Date of Defense 2016-03-13
Availability unrestricted
Dissertation under the direction of Dr. Victor Anderson:

The one and the many has been the perennial philosophical problem from Plato, Augustine, and Aquinas to H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic, Radical Monotheism and Western Culture. This dissertation tracks sovereignty as a political symbol throughout modern Western political theory. It begins with the early modern writings of French theorist Jean Bodin (1530-1596) and English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), both of whom embraced monarchial views of sovereignty. It then tracks the four-fold transmigration of the discourse on political sovereignty, which rests next on “the people” in the theories of John Locke (1632-1704) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). With Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) and GWF Hegel (1770-1831) sovereignty comes to nest in the authority of “reason”, which itself mutates from a self-limiting process for the sake of unity into a totalizing metaphysical entity. Finally, sovereignty comes to rest on “the dictator” for German jurist Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) and nationalist “ideology” for German political theorist Hannah Arendt (1906-1975).

This dissertation finds that sovereignty is justified by two doctrines in Western canonical discourse: that of “the state of nature” and “the political body.” The state of nature is a figure of speech, a primordial myth that has been taken literally, and the political symbol of the “political body” is mimetically derived from one’s view on nature. Thinking on the state of nature conditions thinking on the political body, and thus the state of nature becomes the central theme for how one thinks about sovereignty. This dissertation finds that Hobbes’ doctrine of the state of nature has become hegemonic in the discourse on sovereignty, and that his doctrines of the state of nature and the body politic have problematic enduring cultural-historical effects, especially for African Americans and the world’s poor. The conclusion proposes implications of this migratory narrative of sovereignty from monarchialism to ideology in light of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s discourse on the “state of exception” and African American cultural critic Cornel West’s description of the new American imperialism.

This dissertation attacks the “secularization thesis” about sovereignty, where according to theologians such as Anglian thinker John Milbank (1952), sovereignty has is legitimated by a heterodox theology (Theology and Social Theory, 1990, 2006). The discourse on sovereignty is necessarily embedded in political-theological discourse. Thus political theologians bear a great responsibility for the history of effects and consequences of sovereignty as the ideology of totality and power in the twenty-first century. In this sense the dissertation is prolegomena to an African American political theology in the state of exception (Agamben) and the henotheism of the market forces of aggressive militarism (where might makes right), free-market fundamentalism (an unfettered, deregulated market, even at the expense of public interest) and escalating authoritarianism (the growth in US government surveillance and policing and the centralization of key aspects of law such as criminal justice).

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