2019

From idolatry to religions: The missionary discourse on Buddhism and the invention of theistic Confucianism, 1550-1700 – Public lecture by Joan-Pau Rubiés (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) – 30 April

Abstract

The emergence of a European discourse to distinguish, analyse and historicize various non-Biblical religious traditions within Asia involved a significant amplification of the concept of idolatry. The Jesuit experience of Japanese Buddhism in the second half of the sixteenth century posed a particular challenge, because of its overt atheism. In the Japanese context, idolatry (a superstitious, misdirected belief) and atheism (a lack thereof) came to be seen as complementary rather than opposites. Hence the patristic models of Christian apologetics, based on distinguishing elite monotheism from popular religion in ancient paganism, and which had been useful when confronting Hinduism, in Japan had to be replaced by a system where the elite cultivated an atheistic form esoteric monism. When focusing their dialectical firepower upon on the doctrines of double truth and non-theisitc monism, the Jesuits were in fact responding to the doctrinal distinctiveness of East Asian Buddhism, notably the emphasis on provisional teachings, on the one hand, and Buddha-nature, on the other. Hence the Jesuits can be seen to have responded to the actual doctrines of the Japanese monks, rather than simply export a prefabricated model of idolatrous paganism.  Through the synthesis of the missionary leader Alessandro Valignano, the Jesuit interpretation of Buddhism became crucial not only to the mission in China, where it underpinned (through a negative contrast) the selective accommodation of ‘theistic’ Confucianism, but was also influential in European intellectual culture more generally in relation to the analysis of pantheism.

Biography

Joan-Pau Rubiés (PhD Cambridge) is the coordinator of the Research Group on Ethnographies, Cultural Encounters and Religious Missions (ECERM) at Universitat Pompeu Fabra, which has received funding from the ERC (Marie Curie Program), AGAUR (SGR) and MINECO. His research is focused on the study of cross-cultural encounters in the early modern world, from a perspective combining the contextual analysis of ethnographic sources with the intellectual history of early modern Europe. He is currently developing various lines of research including: travel writing and ethnography, religious dialogue and cultural mediation, the intellectual impact of travel writing and the origins of the Enlightenment, diplomacy and cultural encounters and the comparative history of early modern empires and globalisation.

“The Origins of the End of Ideology Debate: An Alternative History” –Public lecture by Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins – 12 March

Discussiant: Merijn OudenampsenW

Abstract

Proponents of the end of ideology thesis of the 1950s, such as Daniel Bell, Seymour M. Lipset and Raymond Aron, argued that the successes of post-War European welfare states proved that parliamentary forms of democracy made obsolete the need for workers to put their trust in revolutionary ideologies such as Marxism. As a consequence, the standard historical account of the end of ideology debate almost always sees it growing out of a critique of radical social thought. This paper argues that such a rendering obscures a much more complicated history of the end of ideology thesis. Its defenders also viewed it as an alternative to the neoliberal thought of the Mont Pelerin Sociey whose free market ideas stood as a threat to fledgling European welfare states and as such could undermine the very economical and political system that allowed for end of ideology.  The end of ideology thus was also directed at neoliberalism, and like with neoliberalism its concerns were also global in scope. Yet the liberalism it promoted was less centered on establishing global institutions for free trade, and instead focused on articulating theories of development and industrialization that would make revolutionary ideologies obsolete in the third world.

Biography

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins is a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. He is a global historian of 20th century intellectual and political thought and is currently working on two book projects: The first is titled, “The Neoconservative Moment in France: Raymond Aron and the United States” (Columbia University Press) and looks at the larger transatlantic intellectual origins of the neoconservative movement. The second one focuses on the rise and fall of global secularism since the Cold War. Previously he has published scholarly articles in The Journal of the History of Ideas, Modern Intellectual History, Global Intellectual History and elsewhere. He is currently coediting two books: Michel Foucault, Neoliberalism and Beyond (Rowman and Littlefield, 2019) with Stephen Sawyer; and Christianity and the New Historiography of Human Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2020) with Sarah Shortall.