The Modernist God State by Michael Lackey

By | March 26, 2012

The Modernist God State, a new book by Michael Lackey (University of Minnesota), is now available in paperback in North America (it will publish everywhere else in June). This is Michael’s second book; his first, African American Atheists and Political Liberation, won the Choice award for Outstanding Academic Title in 2007.

The Modernist God State has two main aims. To argue that novelists, in disclosing the complex inner workings of people, politics and society, can represent intellectual and political history in a way that historians, philosophers and social scientists are unable to. In this respect (i.e. only broadly), The Modernist God State bears some similarity to The Political Novel by the late Stuart Scheingold. A second aim is to overturn the traditional secularization approach to intellectual and political history and to replace it with a fuller understanding of the religious basis of modernist political movements. Lackey demonstrates that Christianity, instead of fading after the Enlightenment, actually increased its power by becoming embedded within the concept of what was considered the legitimate nation state, thus determining the political agendas of prominent political leaders from King Leopold II to Hitler. Throughout, and in service of both aims, Lackey provides innovative close readings of major writers, including Joseph Conrad, Louise Erdrich, E.M. Forster, David Mamet, William Styron, and Alice Walker.

We have already received some very enthusiastic early reviews:

"Michael Lackey’s provocative claims—that modernity is not essentially secular but sustains religious belief at the level of the subconscious, that modernism should be understood in 'theological terms' not as anti-religious, and that secularization theories have distorted our understanding of 20th-century political history—will garner wide attention and arouse vigorous debate among a range of scholars, from modernist literary scholars to historians to theologians. The Modernist God State offers compelling, if sometimes controversial, insights into the modernist novel and the origin of the nation state that should be read by anyone interested in the growing field of theology and literature." — Pamela L. Caughie, Professor of English, Loyola University Chicago, USA, and Past President of the Modernist Studies Association.

"From Lackey’s opening argument about the centrality of the novel to human understanding and concepts of social order to his careful analysis of the role of religion in conceptualizing and justifying the Nazi world view, this is a provocative book. It is also deeply informed, fervently purposeful, and decidedly unsettling. A must read."– John Ernest, Eberly Family Distinguished Professor, Department of English, West Virginia University, USA

"Courageous, provocative and insightful. This is a powerful and fascinatingly-researched account of how secularization stories have blinded us to the many forms of Christian violence in the modern period. Michael Lackey is the Richard Dawkins of Literary Criticism."– Christopher Douglas, Associate Professor of English, University of Victoria, Canada

"Michael Lackey has given us a passionate, penetrating study of how the novelist (more than the philosopher or the social scientist) has illuminated the monstrous pairing of the Third Reich with Christianity." — James L. W. West III, Sparks Professor of English, Pennsylvania State University, USA

"The Christian cross underlies the Nazi swastika—such is the startling thesis of this boldly revisionist work. Drawing on novelistic insights (Conrad, Styron) more discerning about humanity’s unconscious heart of darkness than anything to be found in shallowly rationalistic philosophers, Michael Lackey challenges dominant readings of the Holocaust and the ideology of National Socialism. Against the conventional narrative of Nazi secularism, Lackey insists on the centrality for the key Nazi thinkers of a Christian God-state to be realized through the purification of the world of those whose incapacity for transcending the material demonstrates their sub-humanity—Jesus Christ as Our Aryan Redeemer, bearing not just a sword but a case of Zyklon B."– Charles W. Mills, John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy, Northwestern University, USA


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