Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Stefan K. Stantchev's "Spiritual Rationality"

Stefan Stantchev earned his Ph.D. in history at The University of Michigan in 2009 and joined the faculty of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University shortly thereafter. Previously, he had completed an MA in Medieval Studies from the Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, and an MA in History from the University of Sofia, Bulgaria.

Stantchev applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, Spiritual Rationality: Papal Embargo as Cultural Practice, and reported the following:
Spiritual Rationality: Papal Embargo as Cultural Practice offers the first book-length study of embargo in a pre-modern period and provides a unique exploration into the domestic implications of this tool of foreign policy. Perhaps surprisingly, the primary employer of embargoes was not a commercial powerhouse or a kingdom on the rise, but rather the papacy. On a basic level, there were multiple trade bans that pursued clearly identifiable goals: to facilitate papally endorsed warfare against external enemies (Muslims, “pagans,” “schismatics”) and to discipline internal ones (“heretics,” disobedient Christian communities, and individual Jews). All the various trade bans were originally promulgated as individual responses to perceived dangers to the decorum of the faith and/or to Christendom. They were shaped by the premise of papal intervention into the lives of the laity by reason of sin and by the text-based approach of popes and canonists. Papal embargo was thus not only a policy tool, but also a legal and moral discourse. Operative upon the Christians themselves, it classified exchanges into legitimate and illegitimate ones, compelled merchants to distinguish clearly between themselves as (Roman) Christians and a multitude of others as non-Christians, and helped order symbolically both the relationships between the two groups and those between church and laity.

Page 99 is part of Chapter 3. While Chapter 2 offers an in-depth analysis of the most notable papal embargo, that against Muslims, Chapter 3 adds breadth by briefly outlining the multiple targets of trade restrictions. The first of two paragraphs found on page 99, which concludes a brief section on embargoes aimed at Christian cities, relates directly to some of the book’s central themes:
Embargoes against interdicted Christian cities may have been primarily an Italian phenomenon. They all have their own immediate contexts, which relate, one way or another, to perceived injuries to the church (sheltering the robbers of a legate, taxing clergymen, and so on). We will see in Chapter 4 that it was in the context of defending the papal state that fourteenth-century ecclesiastical documents clearly articulated the kind of reflections of political economy with which we are familiar from the work of Marin Sanudo. Richard Trexler, however, has already exposed the mechanics of an embargo deployed as one part of an interdict. A meaningful statistical study that would help us determine an approximate “success rate” of early papal embargoes requires types and quantities of evidence that are not available. What matters here, then, is that sanctions, whether total or “smart,” became a systematically deployed papal response to broadly similar situations within Christendom, and that this development was contemporaneous with the emergence of embargo as a policy tool aimed at supporting crusades against “Saracens.”
This paragraph acknowledges the “real” premises of papal embargoes while directing the attention to the contemporaneity of the initial applications of the various restrictions and questioning our ability to analyze them statistically. It thus helps build the case for re-focusing from political and economic matters to cultural ones. The subsequent paragraph, with which a section on heretics begins, alludes to the centralization of the Roman Church in the High Middle Ages--the key background to the emergence of embargo as a papal policy and a moral discourse alike.
We can now turn to “heretics,” an early target of papal embargo. One of the main areas of intervention of the reform papacy from the mid-twelfth century had to do with the two-edged process of the homogenization of correct belief (orthodoxy) and the corresponding definition and eradication of belief considered to be erroneous (heresy). By heretics the Decretum understood people who held “perverted dogma”; heretics followed “new or false” beliefs, and obstinately defended them. In his influential work on penance, as in the Liber extra he edited, Raymond of PeƱafort reminds us that who is doubtful in the faith is an infidel. While a list of heresies figures prominently in the Decretum, Gratian had relatively little to say on measures against heretics. These could not testify against Christians, or pronounce excommunication; clerics were not to enter their company. Just as it did not restrict trade with Muslims, so the Decretum featured no bans on trade with heretics.
Even the footnotes found on page 99 are fairly representative of the book as a whole. While they do not showcase the full spectrum of sources employed, they point out the use of canon law and of the full text of papal letters (as opposed to their published summaries). Note 41 well-represents the book’s approach to scholarship: Spiritual Rationality finds useful, at least in part, a variety of methodological approaches to the study of the past:
C24.q3.c26, 28, 31 (CIC, I, 997–8). On heresy, see both Malcom Lambert, Medieval Heresy: Popular Movements from the Gregorian Reform to the Reformation (Malden, MA, 2002 [1992]) and Mark Pegg, The Corruption of Angels, The Great Inquisition of 1245–1246 (Princeton, 2001). Whether one agrees with the “persecution thesis” itself or not, Robert I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Malden, MA, 2007 [1987]) is especially valuable for exposing the interconnectedness of seemingly disparate developments.
Learn more about Spiritual Rationality at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue