Mystical-political Theology and Ecological Subjectivity: Reading Schillebeeckx through the Frankfurt School on Human-nature Relations

Elizabeth M Pyne, Fordham University


This dissertation argues that a liberating theological anthropology must make socio-political relations and ecological relations matters of co-constitutive primary concern. It furthermore proposes that Edward Schillebeeckx’s mystical-political theology, interpreted constructively through the lens of Frankfurt School critical theory, can provide a productive resource for developing such an eco-social perspective on human creaturely identity. While validating the basic premise that the modern divide of human subjectivity from the natural world must be overcome, the specific inquiry in this project takes careful account of how the concept of “nature” functions as a deeply ambivalent foundation in ecotheological efforts to articulate a connection between human identity and the natural world. What Schillebeeckx describes as “creation faith” proves to be a rich theological terrain for working out a vision of ecological subjectivity that better avoids the pitfalls of foundationalist models. After engaging in a close reading of his efforts to express humanity’s co-creaturely belonging and ecological responsibility as components of Christian faith, the dissertation gleans an alternative approach to nature in his theology of suffering, an approach in which key claims regarding the integrity of created human finitude and the mystical hope for its fulfilment disallow a separation of humanity’s natural and political identity. The critical social theory developed by first-generation Frankfurt School thinkers supplies a means of drawing out the full eco-political potential of Schillebeeckx’s thought. In particular, analysis of Theodor Adorno’s coordinated treatment of domination in nature and society provides crucial insights into the complex problems that characterize human-nature relations and the indispensable role of critique in creating the conditions for their reconciliation. In light of these insights, this dissertation presents ecological subjectivity as a practice of critical engagement in the politics of nature for the good of creaturely life and, following Schillebeeckx, elaborates a mystical dimension in the hope that living well together as creatures is possible.

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Recommended Citation

Pyne, Elizabeth M, "Mystical-political Theology and Ecological Subjectivity: Reading Schillebeeckx through the Frankfurt School on Human-nature Relations" (2018). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI10815160.