The Criticism of Heaven and Earth (5 Vols.)

Roland Boer
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Criticism of Heaven, I consists of a critical commentary on the interactions between Marxism and theology in the work of the major figures of Western Marxism. It deals with the theological writings of Ernst Bloch, Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, Henri Lefebvre, Antonio Gramsci, Terry Eagleton, Slavoj Žižek and Theodor Adorno. In many cases their theological writings are dealt with for the first time in this book. It is surprising how much theological material there is and how little commentators have dealt with it. Apart from the critical engagement with the way they use theology, the book also explores how their theological writings infiltrate and enrich their Marxist work. The book has three parts: Biblical Marxists (Bloch and Benjamin), Catholic Marxists (Althusser, Lefebvre, Gramsci and Eagleton), and the Protestant Turn (Žižek and Adorno).

Criticism of Religion, II offers a spirited critical commentary on the engagements with religion and theology by a range of leading Marxist philosophers and critics: Lucien Goldmann, Fredric Jameson, Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Kautsky, Julia Kristeva, Alain Badiou, Giorgio Agamben, Georg Lukács, and Raymond Williams. Apart from offering sustained critique, the aim is to gather key insights from these critics in order to develop a comprehensive theory of religion.

Criticism of Theology, III provides a detailed and critical commentary on the continued fascination with religion by yet more significant Marxist philosophers, historians and critics: Max Horkheimer, E.P. Thompson, G.E.M. de Ste. Croix, Michael Löwy, Roland Barthes, Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari and Antonio Negri. Simultaneously critique and construction, Criticism of Theology carefully analyses their work through close textual readings, with a view to locating hidden gems that may be developed further.

Criticism of Earth, IV thoroughly reassesses Marx and Engels’s engagement with theology, drawing on largely ignored texts. Thus, alongside ‘opium of the people’, Hegel’s philosophy of law, and the Feuerbach theses, other works are also central. These include Marx’s early pieces on theology, continual transformations of fetishism, and lengthy treatments of Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner. Engels too is given serious attention, since he moved beyond Marx in appreciating theology’s revolutionary possibilities. Engels’s Calvinism is discussed, his treatments of biblical criticism and theology, and his later writings on early Christianity’s revolutionary nature.

In the Vale of Tears, V brings to a culmination the project for a renewed and enlivened debate over the interaction between Marxism and religion. It does so by offering the author's own response to that tradition. It simultaneously draws upon the rich insights of a significant number of Western Marxists and strikes out on its own. Thus, it argues for the crucial role of political myth on the Left; explores the political ambivalence at the heart of Christianity; challenges the bent among many on the Left to favour the unexpected rupture of kairós as a key to revolution; is highly suspicious of the ideological and class alignments of ethics; offers a thorough reassessment of the role of festishism in the Marxist tradition; and broaches the question of death, unavoidable for any Marxist engagement with religion.

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Roland Boer is Professor of Liberal Arts at Renmin University of China (Beijing) and Research Professor at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Trained in classics, theology, and philosophy, his major focus is on the many and complex relations between Marxism and religion. The Criticism of Heaven and Earth series is the most extensive and well-known result of that research. Widely read and commented upon, the series is recognised as a key factor not only in breathing new life into the debates over Marxism and religion, but also in opening up fresh areas of research. These new areas have been taken up in further studies by scholars.

A prolific writer, his work has been translated into more than ten languages. He has also published on a number of other topics. These include economics in the ancient Near East, classical and Marxist economics, the Russian Revolution (Lenin), philosophy, biblical criticism, theology (John Calvin), cultural studies and music (Nick Cave). He is also a writer of travel stories, which have been published in numerous forums.

A semi-nomad, Roland spends much time on the road. Or rather, he spends much time on trains, bicycles, and ships, avoiding flying where possible. His journeys and voyages have taken him over many seas and into many unlikely places, providing inspiration and opportunity to write.
"A great philosopher once wrote that 'some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested'. The five volumes of Roland Boer's magisterial series Marxism and Theology may well be all three." – Matthew Sharpe, in: Arena Journal 41/42 (2013), [28]-58
All those interested in Marxism and religion, critical theory and philosophy, as well as biblical studies and theology.
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