Verbum Catholic Software
Sign In
Products>Theopolitical Imagination

Theopolitical Imagination

, 2002
ISBN: 9780567088970

Digital Verbum Edition

Verbum Editions are fully connected to your library and Bible study tools.


Digital list price: $49.99
Save $13.00 (26%)


The task of responding to Enlightenment and Postmodern understandings of socio-economic reality has become increasingly urgent in a world where Christian communities feel themselves drowned and eroded by global consumerism. Radical Orthodoxy and its related movements and groups of thinkers have confronted today's secular triumphalists with the evidence that its own political theories are deeply, if unconsciously, theological. There is no escape from theology, which alone cuts deeply enough to expose the violence at the root of modern secular society and the deceptive promise of salvation through the State. Catherine Pickstock has drawn attention to the importance of the liturgy at the heart of Western civilization. Now William T. Cavanaugh develops the theme of liturgy as a political act, and the Eucharist as the basis for Christian resistance to 'structures of sin'.

In terms reminiscent of Rowan Williams and Michel de Certeau, Dr. Cavanaugh explores the way we imagine ourselves into space and time. The false catholicity of globalization calls for an answer from within the Christian communion itself. In the nation state, and in the so-called 'international community,' the universal dominates the particular. In the eucharistic community, which is both universal and local, we see the birth of 'free alternative spaces, cities of God in time'. The Eucharist offers an alternative model of humanity, uniting people as fellow-citizens not only in heaven but on earth. It offers a new space and a new time beyond the public square. With Cavanaugh's radical critique, Catholic social teaching reaches the cutting edge of contemporary thought.

  • Introduction: Disciplined Imaginations of Space and Time
  • The Myth of the State as Saviour
  • The Myth of Civil Society as Free Space
  • The Myth of Globalization as Catholicity

Top Highlights

“What I have tried to show is that the state mythos and state religio are distortions of our true hope, and that the Christian tradition provides resources for resistance.” (Page 52)

“Negatively, I want only to argue that the separation of power from any transcendent moorings has not made the world less violent, but has only made the violence more arbitrary and more intense.” (Page 7)

“I will instead display the state, civil society, and globalization as three disciplined and interrelated ways of imagining space and time. Far from merely ‘secular’ institutions and processes, these ways of imagining organize bodies around stories of human nature and human destiny which have deep theological analogues. In other words, supposedly ‘secular’ political theory is really theology in disguise.” (Pages 1–2)

“The myth of early modern ‘religious wars’ from which the modern state has saved us is historically untrue. The rise of the modern secular state is a historically contingent event that has produced more, not less, violence. It has done so not by secularizing politics, but by supplanting the imagination of the body of Christ with a heretical theology of salvation through the state.” (Page 5)

“What is at issue behind these wars is the creation of ‘religion’ as a set of beliefs which is defined as personal conviction and which can exist separately from one’s public loyalty to the state. The creation of religion, and thus the privatization of the Church, is correlative to the rise of the state. It is important therefore to see that the principal promoters of the wars in France and Germany were in fact not pastors and peasants, but kings and nobles with a stake in the outcome of the movement toward the centralized, hegemonic state.” (Page 31)

William Cavanaugh has already established himself as a brilliant commentator on the theological faultlines lying beneath the surface of modern political disease. This searching essay puts just the questions that need urgent hearing in the contemporary political world. If we can't take for granted that we know what political legitimacy is any longer, in a world where sovereignty of the nation-state is a precarious fiction, we should be driven to theology for some fundamental resources. Cavanaugh provides, briefly but powerfully, a clear guide to these resources.

—Most Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

This is not another one of those books that merely sprinkles some sacramental salt on the political pretzel. When Cavanaugh takes recourse to the Christian sacramental life, it is for the purpose of untwisting the knots in the body politic. His clarity of expression and accomplished grasp of material will enable both theologians who do not know much politics and politicians who do not know much theology to follow along as he takes an x-ray of the current situation and asks why we think the way we do.

—David W. Fagerberg, Department of Theology, University of Notre Dame

I found the book very engaging, historically deep, theologically astute, and a much needed tool for reading the 'signs of the times.' It’s especially helping in our current political atmosphere.

—C. Wess Daniels, Gathering in Light

  • Title: Theopolitical Imagination: Discovering the Liturgy as a Political Act in an Age of Global Consumerism
  • Author: William T. Cavanaugh
  • Publisher: T&T Clark
  • Publication Date: 2002
  • Pages: 126

William T. Cavanaugh teaches at the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota.


1 rating

Sign in with your Faithlife account

  1. Ian Carmichael
    Stunning book. An analysis of the formations of the modern state and it's individualist conception of humanity, a consideration of how the Reformation 'wars of religion' were utilised by the emerging modern states to marginalise and privatise religion - and a reminder that true society consists in the body of Christ, which stands over against and different from the modern secular states with their false offer of salvation. A short book, filled with rich thinking. I'm reviewing the content, not the price.


Digital list price: $49.99
Save $13.00 (26%)