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  • Review of Politics Revised2019

    Rights statement: The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, The Review of Politics, 81 (2), pp 231-253 2019, © 2019 Cambridge University Press.

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Dismembered: Citizen Sacrifice in Rousseau's "The Levite of Ephraïm"

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/05/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>Review of Politics
Issue number2
Volume81
Number of pages23
Pages (from-to)231-253
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

This essay seeks to explore the position of citizen sacrifice in Rousseau's political theology from The Social Contract to “The Levite of Ephraïm.” To summarize, I contend that Rousseau's political theology starts out by seeking to prohibit religious sacrifice as something inimical to both natural and positive law, but ends up attempting to appropriate or internalize this sacrificial economy within his theory of citizenship. If Rousseau presents his theory of civil religion as a means of neutralizing the violence of sectarian religions, for example, I contend that this civil profession of faith is itself a species of sacrificial theology which is explicitly designed to create a citizen who is capable of sacrificing their life to the state. In “The Levite of Ephraïm”—a prose poem which begins and ends with the dismemberment of a woman—Rousseau's political theology of citizen sacrifice assumes its most graphic allegorical form.

Bibliographic note

The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, The Review of Politics, 81 (2), pp 231-253 2019, © 2019 Cambridge University Press.