Category Archives: Church

Neonihilism and the Failure of Liberalism

Do the disaffected know what they want? Agency is one thing: leadership and direction is another.

Do the disaffected know what they want? Agency is one thing: leadership and direction is another.

Ross Douthat in today’s New York Times declares our time a crisis for liberalism, the left having ‘lost its way’, in the aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. It’s been a popular theme. In 1969, Ted Lowi declared the end of liberalism, in favour of interest group liberalism, in part a kind of elaboration on Eisenhower’s theme of the military-industrial complex. The liberalism of which we speak has long been defined in terms of economics and economic goods, how the distribution of resources and the freedom that comes with fair access to those resources, can allow mankind to flourish. Friedman’s classic Capitalism and Freedom from 1962 defined the concept, which was ultimately routed in eighteenth century enlightenment thinking, and in particular the French Revolution. Its progression through International Law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the twentieth century brought at its end an essential global consensus: Liberal Democracy was it. This was the end of history. Continue reading

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The Idea of France

Delacroix's <i>Liberty Leading the People</i>

Delacroix’ Liberty Leading the People. She – Liberty – is so much more than the country: she is the ideal and the aspiration, the unadulterated guiding principle. Her path remains clear; but have the people stopped following her?

As Francois Hollande transitions from the bureaucratic administrator of the Fifth French Republic to a wartime leader in the latest instalment of the rolling war on terror, decisions are being made about France. The latest pronouncements – from overbearing surveillance measures introduced in the Summer in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, to the most recent introduction of a three month state of emergency in order to deal with the Paris attacks – diminish democratic governance and accountability, in the short-sighted interests of expediency and national security. But this disaffected progression is not new; perhaps the January and November attacks were more overtly offensive than before, and appear more obvious inflection points, but we must go back ten years to the riots of 2005 to try and understand what is happening. Furthermore, the decisions being made today are not merely reflective of missteps taken in the past, but instructive as to the kind of France that is emerging for the future. And for France, we can read Europe, and Western Liberalism.

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Church and State: What is the Church for?

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The Roman Catholic Church: What is its New Role to be?

I was asked a question recently about the role of the church – in particular the Roman Catholic Church – and how it could be reinvigorated.  What is it missing, my interlocutor asked, in order to connect? The discussion led to some interesting thought connections. In the first instance, there appears to be a question about what role the church truly played in social structures – relative to the state – in more ‘successful’ times. In truth, it appears that the Church served as a quasi-state structure.

Bob Neuwirth‘s 2011 book on The Stealth of Nations looked at informal economies and structures. We’ve discussed informal economies this on this blog before, but also informal justice systems. That concept was about current day emerging countries, but if we go back fifty, one hundred years, there were limited formal state structures as we understand them today even in Western developed economies. Police forces are a relatively recent innovation, and in their earliest days they were sporadic at best. Hospitals and schools run by the state are similarly – broadly speaking – an innovation of the twentieth century. Before that, disputes were often resolved by community leaders – priests – and healthcare and education, such as it was, was provided by Churches. Whatever the Spiritual function, the practical matters of social organization were arguably far more important.  Continue reading

The Competitors for State Legitimacy

In many ways, the question of whether State Legitimacy is being eroded is a question about the future of the Nation State.  This is not a new question, and many writers have had various points of view (like Bobbitt and his Market State, for example).  Many writers go back, instead of going forward – I’ve recently been reading Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel; Acemoglu and Robinson’s Why Nations Fail; and Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order in some way all address the history of civilisation, and the state and its attendant social order.  There’s usually an epilogue or final chapter on future vision, or what this means, but generally speaking these books and their writers offer a historical framework for thinking through how States, and civilisations, evolve.   Continue reading

Church and State; Law and Legitimacy

Trundling along through Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order, we have surged through the Chinese and Indian experiences, pushing past Islam and on to Christianity before moving into the Rule of Law in Part Three.  I had not really to this point considered the extent to which law and religion are part of my considerations; at least certainly not the law.  In thinking through the impact on state legitimacy of technology, it is most likely my view that the changing nature of identity is more important, and that that, by extension, undermines the state (insofar as identity is constructed substantially by associations with non-state or super-state groups).  To put it more simply, people associate less with community and nation, and more with brand and interest group, connected through globalised technology.  Identity is also being changed by the decline in religious tradition, at least outside of Muslim states.  However, I had a problem connecting that aspect of religion to my thesis, as it seems only peripherally attributed to the rise in technology.

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