I have a new article out in a special edition of Religions edited by Michael Thate and Douglas Davies, on the theme Religion and the Individual: Belief, Practice, and Identity. My article, ‘It’s Not the Money but the Love of Money That Is the Root of All Evil’: Social Subjection, Machinic Enslavement and the Limits of Anglican Social Theology reads some recent attempts to articulate a distinctively Anglican/Church of England Social Theology through Lazzarato’s discussion of the role of Christianity in shaping capitalist subjectivities. The issue as a whole looks great, and the journal is open access so all the articles are free to read or download.
“A few points. 1. RO has always accepted Augustine’s account of the 2 cities. The secular regnum can pursue a limited virtue though this must be oriented to the virtues of the city of God. 2. The UK is almost uniquely not composed by ethnicity. (The US is arguably still a white nation to its appalling detriment.) This is why eg British Asians feel totally British and hate the idea of a little England on her own. Britishness, even Englishness, is style and value, not birth or blood or even location. So the UK is not a nation state. 3. It may not even be a State, which means secular autonomy, centralisation of sovereignty and exercise of polizei plus civility. Though indeed much contaminated by all these things, formally it is not defined by them like France and Germany. In his Hamlet Carl Schmitt says the UK is not a State though he thinks this is bad. 4. the UK is still technically a Regnum legitimated by its deference to the Sacrum. Ie there is an established church which, like Rowan Williams, RO tends to defend. (There are exceptions here as we are properly a broad alliance). England and Scotland are only realms because they are also ecclesiastical terrains. Wales is an exception. Till fairly recently the ecclesiastical parish remained the fundamental governing unit and echoes of that remain. 5. To me this ‘west byzantinism’ CAN go along with a theology integrating nature and grace and stressing the communication of idioms in Christ. Ie his divinity and humanity and his priesthood and kingship are all tangled up. For now the sacerdotal rules and seems more divine, but eschatalogically there is an inversion when only his kingship remains and the physical is caught up in finality also. Hence the secular regnum is at once a necessary evil and yet also a sign of the ultimate perfect kingdom. This is the traditional meaning of Christian monarchy I think and why it is so linked to notions of the common good and has always helped to oppose oligarchy and anti-democratic faction. One needs monarchy or some good equivalent. 6. RO of course fully recognises the ecclesial sacrum as the true community of complete virtue beyond the need for coercive law and military violence. The test of the legitimacy of the regnum is the degree to which it enables that. AJM”
“But Sean just describes Britain under an American category: ‘exceptionalism’. That’s something post-revolutionary and consciously messianic. Whereas he things I described in the UK just happen to be the case: the British are scarcely aware of them. They are lingering archaisms that may still be of use. Other European countries have different kinds of archaism eg non-capitalist features of their market economies of which the same thing may be said. There are not so many British arabs; mostly our Muslims are from Pakistan. They don’t by and large complain of racism but of hostility to Islam. This though (from talking to imams etc) can often co-exist with an admitted view that Muslims need to show prime political loyalty to the country they live in and not to the Umma. Rowan Williams’ forthcoming book makes the same point. Loyalty first to the Church beyond the state does not have the same problem as the Church is para political in a way that the Umma is not. Though the evolution of Islam in Europe would seem to be towards this ‘Christian’ model. Nothing to do with race. Again it is specifically American to read race everywhere. Anything to do with ’empire’ is seen as racist, forgetting that the British (and the French and to a degree the Portuguese empires) were the main vehicle for the abolition of the global slave-trade, including the intra-African one, considerably before the US abolition. This is not of course to deny all the evil aspects of empire. But racism often springs as in S.Africa from local colonists and not the local centre. Indeed the Virginian rebels against the Crown wanted to repress native and African Americans more than London would have allowed them to. I’m merely amused that my remarks on monarchy leave you so aghast. So why is Canada freer, less violent, more caring and democratic than the US? Why are similar things true of other existing constitutional monarchies? It’s important in politics to think paradox.”
A certain theoretical homology between Radical Orthodoxy and Qutbism hit me this evening while doing some background reading for the Speculative Medevialisms event. The connection was made while reading Bruce Holsinger’s chapter on Derrida’s medievalism in The Premodern Condition, which uses Catherine Pickstock’s polemic against Derrida in After Writing as a foil. It’s been awhile since I’ve read Pickstock, but Holsinger’s criticisms seem to me unassailable and crystallized some misgivings I had with Pickstock’s texts way back when about the flatness of her reading. But, that isn’t surprising since, after all, this was Holsinger’s goal. What is, well, perhaps not surprising, but interesting, was the structural similarity between Pickstock’s “utter lack of rhetorical modesty” (as Holsinger diagnoses her constant use of words like ‘only’, ‘optimum’, ‘alone’, ‘genuine’, ‘real’, and the like) and the same lack of rhetorical modesty in the Islamist theorist Sayyid Qutb. Continue reading “On Radical Orthodoxy’s Qutbism”
Today fairies lent their mighty steel to the ascendant Red Tory Gideon Osborne. Together they went about cementing the re-enchantment of the world by cutting public spending. Cuts which would help re-enchant the poor most, with rises on VAT and cutting corporate tax rates, driving the poor out of the hands of Big Government, who helped clothe and feed them, back into the arms of hope and faith. Remember, as that great Briton Jesus said, God remembers even the sparrows. The fairies and gallant Gideon also looked to liberate the universities, slashing their disenchanting spending by 25% and assuring that education would belong to the virtuous and ordained by God, while those who are meant to clean toilets and work at call centres will be able to join toilet cleaning guilds and call centre cooperatives, while recent PhDs are now free to pursue ordination in the ministry. What the enemies of re-enchantment, those left-wingers responsible for the fairie holocaust, what they fail to realize is that fostering inequality is the new equality. Even the liberals now know that fairness is the new equality and what is fair is that the whom God chooses to be rich gets richer.
With the ascent of David Cameron — truly a modern Dionysus of Syracuse to Philip Blond’s humble Plato — to the office of prime minister, radical changes are already underway in the United Kingdom. Already Big Government and Big Business are in rapid retreat, in awe of the revitalization of local communities, which are reclaiming the best of their British heritage. In place of nihilistic instrumental reason, many observers now detect a reenchantment of the world, as worker-owned cooperatives and fairies alike take the scene. After decades of sharp decline in church attendance, workers are flocking to any liturgy they can find, hoping to participate analogically in the divine life, as they are now fully convinced that a divinely-appointed hierarchy of peace is the only route to a truly robust socialism.
While the necessity to appoint Liberal Democrats to Cabinet positions is perhaps regrettable, Cameron has taken a step toward a more authentic diversity than liberal multiculturalism can ever provide, appointing an elf as Chancellor of the Exchequer. This alliance with woodland sprites is already paying dividends — folk remedies and magical cures are expected to soften the blow of NHS cuts, and riot police will be supplied with mithril armor.
As an outside observer, I can only applaud Great Britain for finally taking the lead in undoing the worst degradations of modernity — ranging from neoliberalism, colonialism, and exploitative industrialism all the way to nominalism and voluntarism. The island that gave us Duns Scotus is now taking responsibility for reversing the trends he set in motion. Given the UK’s continuing role as the absolute nerve center of world politics, we all wait in joyful hope for the spread of the ontology of peace to all corners of the globe.
Writing in his most recent detailed article in Prospect magazine, Blond opines that “My ideas and recommendations find full and serious expression in both Cameron’s concept of a ‘big society’, and the policy ideas within the Conservatives’ manifesto. Cameron’s big society vision is the most transformative the public have been offered in a generation”. Since the fate of the Red Tory project rests somewhat upon the outcome of today’s election I thought it appropriate to post a bit about the book, even though I have a very long review in the pipes (which is part of my PhD also).
Reading Blond’s work one is struck by the manner in which he establishes his theses, a formula that can be reduced, if one is being harsh, to statement, barrages of statistics, conclusion. Between the statement and the barrage of facts there is a real explanatory gap, a gap that Blond clearly considers he has bridged, but serious scrutiny reveals this to be spurious. In the most part his statistics establish that something is wrong, but they rarely give an indication of its causes directly or why we should accept Blond’s account of these rather than other competing accounts – the two are adrift of each other. There is a breach of the basic standards of social science not at the level of statistical precision but at the vaguer levels of argumentative rigour are absent, for example, that correlation does not establish causation. Similarly, there appears to be no sifting of sources and interrogation of their validity. Blond clearly has a pre-existing story to tell and has located the sources that establish it, which is a reasonable technique, but he has not recognised if the various sources fit together coherently or if they can be trusted.
Continue reading “Red Tory: The Ghosts of Neoliberalism”
Amateur sociologist and sensible conservative David Brooks devotes his column today to the thought of Phillip Blond. This paragraph in particular touched my heart:
He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.
The story sounds familiar to me because I grew up in the environs of working-class Flint, Mich., when it was being eviscerated — the same small town, in fact, where Michael Moore grew up. Both Moore and I share the conviction that the implosion of cities like Flint went hand-in-hand with the systematic destruction of organized labor. Implicitly, we’re to think that Blond sees the same connection, as in this paragraph:
Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.
Interestingly, however, on Brooks’ list of Blond’s potential ways to undo the baleful trend toward centralization and individualization, one does not find trade unionism! Instead, employee share ownership is to be “encouraged.”
Though Brooks does not mention it, Blond does support co-ops like John Lewis plc, but apparently trade unionism in the existing big businesses isn’t really on the agenda for this supposedly “Red” movement. Increasing the discretionary power of local bureaucrats or lowering the regulatory barriers to starting a small business doesn’t seem like any substitute for workers actively forcing big business to give them a greater share of the profits they’re generating — but again, in this supposedly “Red” movement, we get no real analysis of the social forces of capitalism. Instead, we are to assume that for some unknown reason, people just up and decided to favor centralization and greater individualism en masse.
And what is the solution? To fantasize about what elements of pre-modern society we could revamp, all the while making no serious effort to determine how we might organize social forces to make our demands effective — other than, of course, providing ideological cover for the party that did the most to destroy places like Liverpool. Truly, this is the politics of paradox!