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"The best proponent of hope... stricken with hopelessness": Stuart Kelly reviews The Faith of the Faithless

Huw Lemmey 7 February 2012

In his recent review of Simon's Critchley's "movingly optimistic" new book for the Guardian, Stuart Kelly finds a work detailing new possibilities for an "anarchism of responsibility", skipping from Rousseau to Zizek, touching upon Agamben, St Paul and Schmitt upon the way. Focusing on the process of modernity as a reformulation of sacralisations, Critchley's book is less of a development of a position as a series of "variations on a theme":

The chapters of this new book do not establish and develop an argument. Instead, they parry and complement each other; it is better to think of them as symphonic movements.

Whilst the core of the book focuses upon the potential (and preexisting) political radicalism and moral authority of the religious position, Kelly finds the final chapter, a "barbative" excoriation of Slavoj Zizek, the funniest:

and, rather than simply opposing his beliefs, puts him on the couch instead. Coyly claiming to "depolemicise" the debate, he turns Žižek into a teenager, who sits by idly while fantasising about smashing up either the state or the local Tesco.

For Kelly, however, this "moving" book is written in sorrow, tinged not with utopianism but a melancholy for what is lost.

"Everything to be true must become a religion," Wilde says, and Critchley, poetically and persuasively, suggests ways in which this might be accomplished. Yet he seems racked by doubt on whether it ever will.

Read the full review of The Faith of the Faithless at the Guardian.

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