Putting Liberalism in Its Place

Study Notes: Part II

"Liberalism is a doctrine of freedom but it often seems unwilling, if not unable, to take up the question, freedom for whom?" (p143).

Chapter 4: The Faculties of The Soul: beyond Reason and Interest (p145)

Greeks, Christians and the Enlightenment: "... the Greeks formulated the ambition to subject the soul and the state to the order of reason; the Christians turned to a will informed by grace; and the Enlightenment turned both reason and will toward a new appreciation of the ordinary as the object of desire and the limit of experience: C Taylor SoS 285-302 (p145). Greeks imposed the logos of the psyche onto the order of the state (p145); revelation, will and grace: "Will is the potential to realize God's grace" p147); "... man's faculty of will represents the reconceptualization of man in the image of this new God, just as this new God represents a reconceptualization of man" (p149); the state must have a will under faith and beyond reason (p151); "Liberal political theorists fail to understand the foundations of sovereignty in the metaphysics of the will" (p152); "... reason's task is to understand this mundane world, while the will's task is to create order among the ordinary objects of desire" (p153).

The turn towards the ordinary and democratisation (p153); will and contract, justice and distribution (p153); from Hobbes to Rawls (p154); the science of politics (p155); reason, will and interest (pp156-157).

Three Forms of Political Psychology (p159)

Politics and The Metaphysics of Will (p159)

"The modern, democratic polity is founded on a transcendent act of self-revelation"; post revolution (p160); Rawls and revolution (p161); "The sovereign will as the source of political creation, and hermeneutics as the method of reasoning, are remnants of the Christian confessional community that have become parts of our secular political tradition" (p164). The will and the transtemporal community (p165); "self evident truths" in the US Declaration of Independence (p165); Us in thrall to will makes it less liberal in practice than its political theory (p167); globalisation, constitutional hermeneutics and exceptionalism (p167). the role of reason is to provide hermeneutics.

The Politics of Interests (p168)

Interests expressed through the market (pp168-169); the role of reason is to identify barriers and correct market failure (p169); economics dominate in spheres where interests are ranked high; will the force behind contract (p170); the problem of politics interfering with markets (p171).

Liberalism at Home: The Politics of Reason (p172)

Liberalism's task is to put politics on the same footing as science (p172); the task of creating justice (pp172-173); reason does not deny interest, it simply says it has no place in determining justice (p174); Rawls exclusion of interest and will from the original position (pp175-176). Confining reason and will to the private (p177).

Conclusion: The Diversity of Political Meanings (p178)

"Liberalism is a political theory without an understanding of politics. For our politics is neither reason nor interest, but a reading of the body as 'an idea become flesh'. The paradigmatic political act is sacrifice, not contract and not deliberation. Liberalism, however, has no conceptual space for sacrifice" (p182).

Chapter 5: The Erotic Body (p183)

"The most immediate description of the subject that we expect of others and offer of ourselves refers to age, gender, and family. ... through family the connection to the polity is ordinarily established" (p183). Family is first of all an organization of sexuality (p183); family maintains a set of meanings that control and direct the explosive potential of love and death (p184).

Family and Polity before Liberalism (p184)

"In the story of Adam and Eve, the problem of time does not emerge until after they eat of the tree of knowledge. ... In the garden, man is said to have been created in the 'image' of God. ... for man to have knowledge of good and evil is to be subject to the pain of labour ... of bringing forth offspring and of craft. To know the good is to have to struggle to achieve the good. ... Man gains the power to produce by knowing the good" (p185).

In Abraham the knowledge of good and evil replaced by Covenant. He cannot produce children before he enters the Covenant. In Circumcision, the flesh must bear the idea. Sex is the source of family and politics (p186).

The destruction of Sodom links corrupt sex and politics: "What, after all, is Sodom but a vision of the pornographic as the representation of a kind of political freedom? The homosexual appears here as paradigmatic of an affirmative reading of the body as the source of its own meanings, and thus a denial of the Covenant. This assertion of completeness within the body - the denial of the body as an image of the divine Covenant - calls forth God's wrath: (p187). "The sacrifice of Isaac makes clear the conditions under which the intergenerational project of family and nation becomes possible. Isaac is not the product of a natural union of Abraham and Sarah. He is instead the expression of the divine in human time. Faith in the divine is the source of nation, which is a political organization of human sexuality" (p188). "The production of the child, accordingly, is not a natural act but an expression of power. The child is the product of labor and love under divine provenance. ... Genesis portrays human power as a twofold product of grace and faith" (p188). "Abraham must accept God's word on faith; that's all he has" (p189). "In Genesis ... there is no domain of the private family held out as separate from politics because the Covenant is the source of all meaning. This does not make family - or polity - any less the domain of love. Rather, both are love's proper domain" (p189).

The Platonic account of origins (pp189-193). In Biblical and classical, identification of family with politics (p193). Sophocles Antigone: authority reaches its limit in love (pp193-197).

Love and Power: A Modern Misreading (p197)

Arendt's classical theory (p198), connecting pain to labour and both to slavery (p200). Nature is not pre-political but post-political (p200). Arendt's failure to deal with love in a book on the human condition (p201).

Pornography and Romance (p202)

Pornography is always a form of display (p203); "Pornography is a representation of self-possession through a kind of absence"; children, the state and labour are all absent; it has no history and no future; the simplest form of freeing from history; deeply antistatist meaning; no significance of the body outside itself; a fantasy of freedom (pp203-207); pornography and asceticism; the pornographic is the ecstatic moment shorn of religion (p207). "We view the pornographic as a kind of entertainment, but it is a deadly serious entertainment. It is about the denial of death, the state, the family, history, markets, and even language. At the center of the pornographic moment, there is a vision of a total lack of responsibility extending beyond that moment itself." (pp208-209). The pornographic message is freedom (p209). Aristophanes on love as an overcoming of need (pp212-215). Romeo and Juliet (p215); pornography and romance pose equal challenges to the family: their difference is that the first is unspecific about the object of desire (p216). Aristophanes and Socrates (p218).

Love and Power Reconsidered (p218)

Contra liberalism, the classical view does not start with the individual and resist the division of public and private (p218). "... experience of creating a universe of common meaning is characteristic of all the domains of love" (p220). "In the Judeo-Christian tradition, we carry forward the basic insight that our fundamental relationship to the world is one of love" (p221). "Stripped of the sacred imagery, we can say that love is the experience of our ontological condition as the source of a meaningful universe. IN this sense, love is stronger than violence. Indeed, for man, love is prior to violence" (p221). "We want not just to experience the momentary peaks of love, but also to have lived a life well-loved" (p222). We must love the universal in the particular (p223); love is the experience of power through the creation/discovery of meaning (p223); "In love, I can always answer the question, who am I? Indeed, in love I know with certainty who I am. The paradigmatic act of reading the loved body is sacrifice. In its essential form, sacrifice is a kind of transubstantiation: Christ was the Word become flesh through love. ... If it cost us nothing we could not love"  (pp223-224). Sacrifice at the heart of politics and family (p224); sacrifice not extraordinary but paradigmatic (p224); in love we find salvation from our own finitude (p224).

Conclusion: Love and Liberalism (p226)

"Liberalism cannot explain the normative conditions of the political, which do not lie in reason but in love" (p227).

Chapter 6: The Autonomy of The Political in The Modern Nation-State (p228)

"If love is the experience of the generation of meaning, then there is no domain of life that cannot be conceived as an aspect of love. The attachment to the political order is a form of love. It involves loyalty, courage, self-identification, and participation in the intergenerational project of family and community. ... Love, I argued, was the internal experience of power. Politics, correspondingly, is the outward face of power. The communitarians, in their argument with liberals, are reluctant to discuss power; the multiculturalists tend to see power primarily as a source of oppression. Neither sees the linked character of law, power and love" (p228).

Politics means life and death, armies and sacrifice (p229).

Killing and Being Killed (p230)

No political theory is complete unless it accounts for killing and sacrifice (p230); liberals suppose a state monopoly of violence to suppress violence, protecting borders and eliminating crime but do not confront sacrifice (p231); the process of dehumanising enemies (p232); political sacrifice is a kind of love, usually lacking spontaneity (p233) but it becomes a political act when it involves the reciprocal infliction of injury (p234); liberals operate across borders and work towards a global market (p235); contract should replace sacrifice (p236); we kill for political not moral reasons; enemies can become allies  (pp236); people do not fight those they cannot imagine as enemies; political meaning shifts easily and subtly (p238).

"The effort to displace politics by morality is a constant ambition of well-meaning people. But measuring politics by morality makes as much sense as measuring art by morality. These are different ways of perceiving meaning in the world; they work in different dimensions. While each can displace the other, neither can be reduced to the other. These are simply incommensurable. From the moral perspective, each individual - citizen or alien - is of ultimate value; from the political perspective, citizen and alien are of fundamentally different value" (p239). "Nowhere in liberal accounts of the state does anyone die" (p240). to the liberal sacrifice looks fascist but liberal political order depends upon state power to require people to kill and be killed (p241).

The Forms of Political Discourse (p241)

As politics involves sacrifice it cannot depend on reason (p242). Three types of logic within the polity: REASON, RIGHTS AND RHETORIC; The liberal, universal reason of Kant and Rawls in distributing rights; the extension of rights by deduction (p2442); the analogy of legal reasoning (p243); political rhetoric and the language of sacrifice (p244). Sacrifice for the rights of others expresses support for the continuation of the polity (p246); rhetoric and intergenerational survival (p248); the confusion of rhetoric and rights (p248); we argue over reform of the state but not its existence (p249); the language of politics is rhetoric not logic (p250); Us Supreme Court and rhetoric (pp250-255). "If we come to the point where we can only subject political rhetoric to the critique of the language of rights and the logic of administration, then what we have known as the political life of the nation will be over" (p255). What unites us is a belief in the Constitution that can demand sacrifice (p258).

A Classical View of The Modern Political Imagination (p259)

The modern state claims to be democratic, of revolutionary origin and (except UK - KC) an expression of popular sovereignty (p259); the Enlightenment nation-state (p261); the discourse of liberalism (p262); looking at the law conceals the violence (p263); the link between popular sovereignty and popular armies broke the distinction between combatant and non-combatant (p263); War, and Aristotle's Four Causes (pp264-266); revolution and negative freedom (p266); the ideology of self-creation and popular sovereignty (p267); Law (pp268-272); state and individual (pp272-273); "while in liberal theory the idea of the private precedes the public, in the modern state the private is a function of the public" (p273). If citizens cease to think of themselves as bearers of popular sovereignty the nation-state will collapse, cf USSR (p274); citizenship (pp274-275); "The national-state is the sole source of its own existence and it exists only as a meaning borne by citizens willing to invest their bodies in its continued existence as an order of law" (p275); nation-state as effective instrument of sacrifice (pp275-276).

The Final Cause of The Nation-State: Constitutionalism without End (p276)

The final cause of the nation-state is self-perpetuation (p276); limitless war and internationalism (p278).

Conclusion: Liberalism, The Nation-State, and International Law (p280)

the nation-state is its own normative order (p280); "liberalism is the morality of the nation-state, which is itself an illiberal structure of ultimate value" (p280); "those who preach law as an answer to state violence fail to recognise the extent to which the state under law has been more, not less, willing to wage war without limits than were its predecessors" (p281). Jus Cogens (p273); advocates to replace nation-state sovereignty with global rights and universal markets, repeats liberal confusion of formal causes with politics (p275); moralists dismayed by the tenacity of politics (p287); "Reason does not construct history, politics does" (p287).

Conclusion: The Future of The Nation-State (p291)

Markets and expertise threaten state (p292).

The Post-political Domestic Order (p293)

The anonymity and moral neutrality of markets (p295); experimentation of consumers (p295); "Authoritarian regimes are concerned about controlling access to the internet because they fear it will make available information necessary to the construction of a more liberal political order. IN liberal states, the politics of the net presents a quite different problem. The question here is whether the construction of the subject through participation in the net will undermine conditions of political identity that have operated since the age of revolutions began two hundred years ago" (p296). The cyber world promises to achieve a post-political world (p297); the triumphalism of markets and networks (p298); a turn to the family stripped of politics (p298); tension between the romantic and loving family (p298); state sacrifice as an invasion of the romantic family (p300); the romantic family contra religion (p301); the turn towards ethnic identity (p302); globalisation (p303).

"The Post-Nation-State polity will no longer be one dedicated to any proposition at all, except the proposition that information wants to be free and thus all should have access to the internet. National political identity will diminish as we simultaneously become more global and more local" (p304).

Politics in The Post-political State (p305)

"One form of the political is the movement toward a transnational understanding of rights coupled to a thin cultural or ethnic identity" (p305). In some places ethnicity a turn towards traditional forms of sacrifice (p305); politics as aid to markets and networks (p306); Europe most advanced in depoliticisation but early days (307); most of the world still deep in politics (p307); the West in its new state will still have to understand itself politically (p308); post-political, multicultural societies nation-states for an indefinite future (309); we will continue to look with political eyes (p310).

"Only a naive multiculturalism believes that the moral point of view can be brought to politics in order to reconcile differences. ... We have no reason to believe that history has come to an end in the simultaneity of markets and networks" (p310. "... the era of nation-states may be ending, but that of politics still has a long way to go" (p313).