Devin Singh

Social theorist / religion scholar / critical visionary

Overview:

Singh's work examines the intersections of religious thought with political and economic spheres in the modern West and in sites of colonial encounter. He researches, writes, and teaches on religion and politics, religion and economics, political theologies, secularization, as well as key figures and movements within the history of Christian thought, philosophy of religion, and ethics. Singh also focuses on topics such as critical social theory, phenomenology, aesthetics, postcolonial thought, and social and business innovation and practice.

Singh's scholarly work has appeared in journals such as the Harvard Theological Review, Implicit Religion, Political Theology, and Studia Patristica. Many of these are available for access at his Academia.edu site.

Singh's popular writing has appeared in Time, The Huffington Post, and Patheos.

 

Books:

Divine Currency: The Theological Power of Money in the West. Cultural Memory in the Present. Stanford University Press, 2018.

This book demonstrates how economic ideas structured early Christian thought and society, giving crucial insight into why money holds such sway in the West. Examining the religious and theological sources of money's power, it shows how early Christian thinkers borrowed ancient notions of money and economic exchange from the Roman Empire as a basis for their new theological arguments. Monetary metaphors and images, including the minting of coins and debt slavery, provided frameworks for theologians to explain what happens in salvation. God became an economic administrator, for instance, and Christ functioned as a currency to purchase humanity's freedom. Such ideas, in turn, provided models for pastors and Christian emperors as they oversaw both resources and people, which led to new economic conceptions of state administration of populations and conferred a godly aura on the use of money. Divine Currency argues that this longstanding association of money with divine activity has contributed over the centuries to an ever increasing significance of money, justifying various forms of politics that manage citizens along the way. Devin Singh's account sheds unexpected light on why we live in a world where nothing seems immune from the price mechanism.

 

"Divine Currency offers an incisive contribution to the debate about neoliberalism's Christian origins. Devin Singh's bold reading of the sources challenges us to reconsider the relations between theology, politics, and economics."

          —Philip Goodchild, University of Nottingham

"Devin Singh's book is a welcome and timely addition to recent scholarship in religious as well as finance studies, and with far-reaching consequences."

          —Susanna Elm, University of California, Berkeley

“Devin Singh’s work is ground-breaking, erudite, and a pleasure to read. It forces us to reread the history of Christianity in a new and wholly unexpected way, and in so doing sheds fresh light on the modern world and our contemporary situation. His intervention has the potential to reorient the field of political theology and the increasingly urgent investigations into the genealogy of modern economic concepts. Singh’s work is scandalous in the best and most productive possible ways.”  

          —Adam Kotsko, North Central College

“Devin Singh has made an important contribution to the area of political theology. His overall interpretation fills a gap within political theology, namely the relationship between political governance and management, on the one hand, and economic exchange, distribution and redistribution, on the other, that is ultimately tied to a theological concept of the ‘just sovereign.’”

          —Hille Haker, Loyola University Chicago

  

  

 

When Debt Becomes God. Harvard University Press, under contract/in process.

This book employs debt to reconfigure our understanding of the relationship between politics and the economy, and to shed light on the crucial place of religious thought in these formations. It argues that debt is fundamental not only to economic exchanges but also to our models of political sovereignty and governance in the West. Economic and political debt are of a piece. Furthermore, longstanding ideas of debt in Christian and Jewish traditions, with talk of sin, guilt, and obligation, serve to undergird and legitimate debt’s operations in politics, where the relationship of sovereign power to the governed is often construed as a debt between ruler and ruled.

When Debt Becomes God traces the uses of debt language in religious thought to demonstrate how it serves to enforce certain political arrangements. The book also explores key shifts in understandings of debt at the inception of capitalism, from private and shameful debt to public and legitimate. Such developments are partly a function of innovations in Christian thought, as God is redescribed as a debtor and creditor. Changes in the theological imaginary, with debt broadly disseminated among a community of believers and purchased and redistributed by a cosmic redeemer, promote innovations in debt instruments in the broader economic and political sphere. Attempts to extricate ourselves from the bonds of debt, therefore, whether through alternative economies or forms of debt forgiveness, require radical reconfiguration of political and economic imaginations. Uncovering and rethinking the theological ideas that fostered much of our present order are critical steps in this endeavor.