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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: January 2010

7 - Schleiermacher and the theology of bourgeois society: a critique of the critics


Ever since his death in 1834 the thought of Friedrich Schleiermacher has constituted a battleground of competing theological perspectives. His corpus, which touches on so many diverse aspects of human culture in the modern setting, continues to be the seedbed of rival interpretations and theories. This holds for the relationship between politics and theology. Though discussion of the political teaching of Schleiermacher has never attained the intensity of discussion of his theology, it is well known that much of his lifework focused on a theory of politics and society, including his ethics, his lectures on the state, occasional papers, and addresses before the Berlin Academy and other bodies, his Plato translations and prefaces (especially the Republic), not to mention the political dimension of numerous sermons or his direct involvement in the movement of Prussian Reform. To this day few studies integrate the diverse strata of Schleiermacher's theological teaching into a full-scale treatment of his politics.

The fact that several recent Schleiermacher interpretations take a political bent is to be lauded. The subject is worthy of investigation for its own sake but also because of its potential for throwing light on the relationships between political, economic, or social issues and present-day theological imperatives. By looking at familiar texts with a heightened political consciousness, a reader is forced to rethink fundamental positions of Schleiermacher's thought and to weigh perspectives that often reach into the fabric and aspirations of our own society.