Skip to content

Eugene McCarraher on Personhood and “the Secular”

“Once you concede the essential legitimacy of the ‘secular’ account of the person—or of economics, or politics, etc.—you end up relegating Christianity to the realm of ‘spirituality,’ or ‘values,’ or some other gaseous invertebrate that hovers around an ‘essentially’ secular self. Rather, Christians should contend that the ‘secular’ marks the repression, displacement, and renaming of our desire for a sacramental way of being in the world. Indeed, the history of the person is both the history of those perversions and of attempts to mitigate or undo the perversions. So I think that it’s better to say, not that the Christian account of personhood is ‘at odds’ with the ‘secular’ account, as the secular account is a disfigurement of personhood.

In this view, the self under late capitalism is a perversion of our desires for a beloved, sacramental community of labor. If you look closely, I think you’ll find that, for instance, a great deal of management theory—as dullard or cynical as it truly is—represents an effort on the part of corporate capital to simulate such a community. Advertising, to take another example, is the devotional iconography of late capitalism: it arouses, in the very act of disfiguring, our sacramental longing for a land of milk and honey, for a New Jerusalem.”
–Chris Keller, “Britney Spears and the Downward Arc of Empire: An Interview with Eugene McCarraher”, The Other Journal


  1. roflyer wrote:

    I just read this interview today. So good. What do you think about his brief critique of the anti-liberalism of Cavanaugh, Hauerwas, and Milbank? Or his endorsement of a Christian socialism?

    Monday, December 3, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  2. adamsteward wrote:

    I’m excited to read this article – thanks for linking it. I’m very optimistic about the potential in McCarraher’s application of an Augustinian account of sin/evil as privation to the history of capitalism. Have you heard when the book is coming out?

    Monday, December 3, 2007 at 2:20 pm | Permalink
  3. amondstien wrote:

    One interesting thing I noticed about McCarraher is that is both committed to the life of the church as being the hope for the world while being very adamant about joining arms with “disembedded intellectuals” from other traditions, whether those traditions be other religions or other traditions of critique and resistance. My question for him would be to explain how we can do both well without compromising one or the other? How do we work to build the world with others in the image of the Triune God with people who have to stake in such a building project, but have their own building project in mind that is being guided by the worship of some other god (Zizek, Negri, et. al.)?

    Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 9:51 am | Permalink

Switch to our mobile site