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Apocalypse, it seems, is everywhere. Preachers with vast followings proclaim the world's end. Apocalyptic fears grip even the nonreligious amid climate change, pandemics, and threats of nuclear war. As these ideas pervade popular discourse, grasping their logic remains elusive. Ben Jones argues that we can gain insight into apocalyptic thought through secular thinkers. He starts with a puzzle: Why would secular thinkers draw on Christian apocalyptic beliefs – often dismissed as bizarre – to interpret politics? The apocalyptic tradition proves appealing in part because it theorizes a relation between crisis and utopia. Apocalyptic thought points to crisis as the vehicle to bring the previously impossible within reach, offering resources for navigating challenges in ideal theory, which involves imagining the best, most just society. By examining apocalyptic thought's appeal and risks, this study arrives at new insights on the limits of utopian hope. This title is available as open access on Cambridge Core.Read more
- Examines the parallels between apocalyptic thought and ideal theory in political philosophy today
- Offers a novel theory for the persistent appeal of apocalyptic thought and why it continually shows up in political life
- Draws on insights from the apocalyptic tradition to clarify the challenges, dangers, and limits of utopian hope
- This title is also available as open access on Cambridge Core
Reviews & endorsements
'An important theme of several strands of political and theological reflection is that the line between religious thought and secular political thought is not bright. In many respects, secular political traditions draw heavily on religious ideas, often without realizing it. But by itself this thesis is familiar, glib, and often poorly defended. Apocalypse without God is anything but. The book is original, rich, and reflective. It carefully traces the idea of secular apocalyptic thought in important thinkers and ends with a critique of contemporary ideal theory along similar lines. Ben Jones not only reframes secular political theories from the past, but how much political philosophy operates today.' Kevin Vallier, Bowling Green State University and author of Trust in a Polarized AgeSee more reviews
'Visions of the ideal drive great plans and stoke great passions. But great plans rest on uncertain assumptions about the future, and great passions bring their own dangers. Ben Jones argues that embracing epistemic humility can temper the violent excesses of utopian hubris, and check ideal theory’s pretensions too. Yet this same epistemic humility makes space for utopian hope. A thoughtful, incisive, contemporary twist on a classic problem of enlightenment political thought.' Nomi Claire Lazar, University of Ottawa and author of Out of Joint: Power, Crisis, and the Rhetoric of Time
'In this engaging book, Ben Jones revisits the long history of apocalyptic thought in order to explain its persistent appeal. Where some theorists separate religion and secular theory, Jones shows that religious traditions can enrich political reflection today. With lucidity and insight, he describes a circumspect hope that sustains the struggle for justice in an uncertain world.' David Newheiser, Australian Catholic University and author of Hope in a Secular Age
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- Date Published: April 2022
- format: Hardback
- isbn: 9781316517055
- length: 200 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
- weight: 0.492kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Secular Apocalyptic Thought:
1. The hazards of studying secular apocalyptic thought
2. The paradox of secular apocalyptic thought
Part II. Historical Case Studies:
3. Apocalyptic hope's appeal: Machiavelli and Savonarola
4. Tempering apocalyptic ideals: Hobbes and pretenders to God's kingdom
5. Reimagining God's kingdom: Engels and Müntzer
Part III. Implications for Ideal Theory:
6. Ideal theory as faith
7. Limiting the dangers of Utopian hope
Appendix: Argument against ideal theory's plausibility
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