In the Vale of Tears

Buy hardcover (Brill)
Published Nov 2016
ISBN: 9789004252325

On Marxism and Theology, V

Roland Boer, University of Newcastle, Australia

In the Vale of Tears brings to a culmination the project for a renewed and enlivened debate over the interaction between Marxism and religion. It does so by offering the author’s own response to that tradition. It simultaneously draws upon the rich insights of a significant number of Western Marxists and strikes out on its own. Thus, it argues for the crucial role of political myth on the Left; explores the political ambivalence at the heart of Christianity; challenges the bent among many on the Left to favour the unexpected rupture of kairós as a key to revolution; is highly suspicious of the ideological and class alignments of ethics; offers a thorough reassessment of the role of fetishism in the Marxist tradition; and broaches the question of death, unavoidable for any Marxist engagement with religion. While the book is the conclusion to the five-volume series, The Criticism of Heaven and Earth, it also stands alone as a distinct intervention in some burning issues of our time.

Winner of the 2014 Isaac and Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize.

Biographical note

Roland Boer researches at the University of Newcastle, Australia, and teaches at Renmin University of China, Beijing. He has published extensively on Marxism, theology, political theory and biblical criticism. His most recent works are Lenin, Religion, and Theology (Palgrave 2013), Marxist Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (Bloomsbury, 2014) and, with Christina Petterson, Idols of Nations: Biblical Myth at the Origins of Capitalism (Westminster John Knox, 2014).


All those interested in Marxism and religion, critical theory and philosophy, as well as biblical studies and theology.


“The volume contains three truly excellent chapters […]”
Marcus Hunt, Marx & Philosophy, 4 March 2014

“A great philosopher once wrote that ‘some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested’. The five volumes of Roland Boer’s magisterial series Marxism and Theology may well be all three.”
Matthew Sharpe, Arena Journal, No. 41/42, 2013: [28]-58.

Table of contents


Of Old Timber and Lovers
On Theology
Relativising Theology
Theological Suspicion

1. Atheism
Banishing the Gods?
Marxism and Theology

2. Myth
Political Myth
Anticipation, or Utopia
For Example

3. Ambivalence
Scandal and Folly
Folly to the Rich
Towards a Marxist Theory of Political Ambivalence
The Unwitting
The Witting
By Way of Conclusion

4. History
Method: Search for an Anti-Fulcrum
Paul’s Shaky Transitions
The Fate of Christian Communism

5. Kairós
At the Crossroads of Time
Measure and Immeasure (Negri)
By Way of Conclusion: Political Grace

6. Ethics
Ethics, Morality and Moralising
Care of the Self
Greasing the Other
Towards Ethical Insurgency

7. Idols
That Hideous Pagan Idol: Marx and Fetishism
On Graven Images: From Liberation Theology to Theodor Adorno

Conclusion: On Secularism, Transcendence and Death
Secular and Anti-Secular
Transgressive Transcendence