Theoscopy: Transparency, Omnipotence, and Modernity

Stefanos Geroulanos

in Political Theologies

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226443
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823237043 | DOI:
Theoscopy: Transparency, Omnipotence, and Modernity

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By taking up the motif of a “theoscopic” regime, this chapter connects the religious and theological tradition in which God's omniscient gaze is a central if not constitutive characteristic of His omnipotence to two recent theories of power and society: the analysis of panopticism in Michel Foucault and that of the spectacle in Guy Debord. It shows how their analyses of the use of power and vision to organize and oppress deploy a series of similar theologico-political operations and themes. In both, humans are defined by the limitations of a finite individual's gaze, and consequently are mired in social structures and power relations that exploit this limitation. For these thinkers, human entanglement in visually encoded interpersonal relations results in submission to social structures that enforce the metaphor of theoscopy, that is to say, the projection of a perfect, divine gaze on the very form of modern society. The chapter explores the role of tropes, traditions, metaphors, and practices normally attributed to religious thought in a post-“death of God” conception of the political and the social.

Keywords: Michel Foucault; Guy Debord; spectacle; panopticism; theoscopy; omnipotence; God; divine gaze; power; social structures

Chapter.  9061 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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