The challenges of ideal theory and appeal of secular apocalyptic thought

  • Ben Jones
  • European Journal of Political Theory, August 2017, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1474885117722074

What's the appeal of secular apocalyptic thought?

What is it about?

Many see apocalyptic thought as bizarre. Why would secular thinkers find such thought appealing for interpreting politics? This article tackles that puzzle. It makes the case that apocalyptic thought proves appealing, in part, because it helps in imagining a path to the seemingly impossible goal of the ideal state.

Why is it important?

Apocalyptic concepts and themes have a way of migrating into politics throughout history and today. This article breaks new ground in explaining why apocalyptic thought's focus on crisis makes it appealing to politics, and identifies previously overlooked links between apocalyptic thought and what in contemporary political philosophy is known as ideal theory--that is, theorizing about the ideal state.


Dr Ben Jones
Pennsylvania State University

For the past several years, I have been wrestling with the idea of secular apocalyptic thought. As I read different texts in the history of political thought, I was struck by different thinkers who were critics of Christianity but nevertheless found elements of apocalyptic thought appealing, which they incorporated into their political philosophy. This article explains part of the appeal of apocalyptic thought for such thinkers, and is adapted from a larger book project in progress entitled "Apocalypse without God."

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