Some Random Email Stuff

Paris Lawyer Pundit (see this post) responded by noting that he had just finished the Straussian-flavored work Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace. The book does sound good, covering, according to PLP:

Classical Realism (Thucydides); Classical Idealism (Plato, Aristotle); the specificity of Cicero; the Christian Just War perspectives (Vitoria, Suarez, more recent Papal and Catholic treatments in the texts cited in the footnotes – the modern Catholic commentary on the subject sounds very wishy-washy); Modern Idealism (Grotius); Modern Realism (Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and then Morganthau, Kissinger, Nicholas Waltz in the 20th c.).

PLP summarizes in characteristically densely-packed fashion:

[The authors’]particular interest is to link the more solid political theoretical reflections that tend to focus on the domestic, with the extrapolations relevant to the international sphere. Issues such as multipolar vs. unipolar power in the post WWII framework (the issue dividing Chirac/Bush/Blair) are covered. The best argument I think is that to militate for multi-polarism will produce greater instability in the system than a channelled unipolarism post-WWII, Cold War. Of course, the fundamental justice of this statement will also depend on on the normative character of the régime of the unipolar power, since if the unipolar hegemon were Stalinist I think we might very quickly become disciples of Dominique de Villepin. Nevertheless, this does raise the issue of the underlying normative value in the 21st c. of the particular modernity propagated by the Atlanticist régimes on both sides of the sea. In this respect, the thought of JPII may become more insightful for the next millenium.

PLP provoked (pretty much) the following response from Lex:

[PLP], I don’t know how much utility there is in shorthand terms like “unipolar hegemon”. You end up getting into definitional quibbles and lose sight of the concrete. I learned from Eric Voegelin’s writing to always elbow aside the terminology if it is reducing rather than aiding clarity about the underlying reality. I think the issue here is not one of whether we in theory want a “hegemon” or “unipolarity” or “multipolarity”. It is much more a matter of clearly seeing what is actually going on, who is doing what, to whom; who has what capabilities to act effectively under the current circumstances, and will they; and what results are likely to arise from the current, and currently proposed, courses of action. For example, I think the French in particular are self-inflicted victims of an ideological rather than substantively correct view of “the particular modernity propagated by the Atlanticist régimes on both sides of the sea”, i.e. the perfidious Anglo-Saxons, or in current popular parlance “the Anglosphere”. This amorphous entity does, in fact, have more political, military, economic and cultural authority than any other state or community in the world (e.g. English speakers have a greater net worth than everyone else in the world put together, by a lot.) So the question is, how to influence it to act sensibly. Chirac and Villepin have not been effective at having any such influence, in large part because they view it through ideological blinders. (See James W. Ceasar, Reconstructing America: The Symbol of America in Modern Thought)[See also This earlier post]. There is indeed a lot of difference between a very powerful America and a very powerful Soviet Union, a fact the French chose to elide during the Cold War. Now, in a similar way, the polar positions are a world with a disengaged Americe in which there are muslim terrorists with nuclear weapons and one in which an engaged America is trying to prevent that from happening. But the reality is the latter, so the real question can only be whether the means being employed are wise or will be effective. But none of this analysis really requires the creation and employment of epithets like “hyperpuissance”. In fact, the US is far from being a “hyperpower” (which I take to mean a true global hegemon) and does not want to be one, and does not have the political support at home to try to be one. This should all be perfectly apparent to anyone actually paying attention. I think a few thousand miles of salt water and the language barrier have obscured this reality for the French.

I agree that JPII’s thought will become increasingly important. But this will have to be a slow, incremental, bottom-up process of forming the Catholic laity spiritually and humanly. And the Church will have to do the hard intellectual work of making its increasingly and embarrassingly outmoded “social teaching” relevant and applicable to current conditions. I had a conversation with ———- about this recently, and it is an idea that he had never heard, and no one he knows is even aware that there is a problem, which is itself the first and biggest problem. At least the Pope has tried to start the process of understanding the current world political economy as it really is. Concretely, what will it mean to apply JPII’s teachings? The current century is going to be the century of the global dominance of the English language, anglophone culture, and of the Anglo-Saxon derived polities — for both good and ill. So, the task for us Catholics is to give a Catholic cast to the Anglosphere. That is enough to keep us all busy. You are a multi-cultural, multi-lingual mole in the midst of the Francophonie, as well as a Catholic mole in an atheistic professional and cultural world. So, you will need to be a bridge between the various worlds. Bridges get walked on. So you have your cross to bear. Have fun.

OK, throwing slabs of email up on the blog is not necessarily the best way to come up with a post which might be of interest to others. But this exchange touches on enough interesting things that I figured, what the Heck.

1 thought on “Some Random Email Stuff”

  1. There’s one problem with this: “I learned from Eric Voegelin’s writing to always elbow aside the terminology if it is reducing rather than aiding clarity about the underlying reality.” If they ever figured this this out, I’d have lost a major component of my bullshitometer!

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