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Posts from the ‘Agamben’ Category

Noahpinion on race, homogeneity, assimilation and diversity

Today a blogger posted the best essay I’ve seen in rejection of the idea that diversity is inferior to homogeneity, or put more charitably, that the alt-right’s message of “diversity + proximity = war” is not sound.

View the post here.

This ties together everything I’ve been saying about immigration politics the past year or so. You can see bits and pieces of my thought process in this post and this post, but I never got around to an outright refutation. That would have been against the rules I set forth in this post.

It’s not worth trying to summarize his points because 1. Finals week is coming up and 2. he already said everything better than I can.

 

Flagged Paragraphs on Globalization

A few months ago I decided to start a giant project on Globalization over the semester break. It was going to be Very Thorough, and I was going to finish it Super Fast because my productivity would be Excellent.

So anyways, I only read one of the books, it took forever, I gave up on the project because the new semester started and suddenly I had /actual/ work to do, and the library books were due. The mission is thus passively euthanized, and I have signed the DNR with the best handwriting I could manage.

The one book I dependently sludged through was Malcolm Waters, “Globalization,” Melbourne: Routledge, 1995. Insightful commentary I write not, but mega quotepost you here will find.

 


 

1.

7-8 – Globalization is traced through three arenas of social life that have come to be recognized as fundamental in many theoretical analyses. They are:

  1. The economy: social arrangements for the production, exchange, distribution and consumption of goods and tangible services.
  2. The polity: social arrangements for the concentration and application of power, especially insofar as it involves the organized exchange of coercion and surveillance (military, police ), as well as such institutionalized transformations of these practices as authority and diplomacy, that can establish control over populations and territory.
  3. Culture: social arrangement for the production, exchange and expression of symbols that represent facts, affects, meanings, beliefs, preferences, tastes and values.

2.

13 – Industrialization carries with it more general societal ramification. It induces the pattern of differentiation to other areas of social life as these areas increasingly become functionally articulated with the industrial core – families specialize in consumption, schools teach differentiated skills to the labor force, specialized units of government provide economic infrastructure, the mass media sell appropriate symbolizations, churches promulgate supporting values, and so on. These structural changes induce value shifts in the direction of individualization, universalism, secularity and rationalization. This general complex of transformations is called “modernization”. As industrialization spreads across the globe, it carries modernization with it, transforming societies in a unitary direction. Imitating societies may even adopt modern institutions before effectively industrializing.

3.

27-29 – the snooker table as being overlain by a cobweb of relatively fragile connection between the balls – when the balls move gently (diplomacy) they are guided by the strands, when they move violently (war) they disrupt them. The networks that Burton identifies are patterns based on such factors as trade, language, religious identification, ethnicity, ideology, strategic alliance, communication links, and legal and communications conventions. In a formulation that clearly prefigures true globalization theory he argues that we should replace a simplistic geographical notion of distances by one based on what he calls ‘effective distance’ (1972: 47). Here the more dense the systemic linkages between locations, effectively the closer they are. If we were to take Burton’s argument to its extreme we would indeed have a genuine globalization theory – if the entire world is linked together by networks that are as dense as the ones which are available in local contexts, then locality and geography will disappear altogether, the world will genuinely be one place and the nation-state will be redundant. However, for Burton, as for many other political scientists, this position remains much too radical because it denies the saliency of the state as a prime organizing principle of social life. He wants to insist that the world is dualistic, integrated at the substate level but still organized as segmented nation-states. Burton is not alone – dualism remains the bottom line for political science and International Relations versions of globalization. Bull (1977), for example, insists on the continuing saliency of what he calls the states system, a pattern of international relations in which there is a plurality of interacting sovereign states that accept a common set of rules and institutions. Bull identifies the clearest threat to the states system that he values so highly as the emergence of what he calls a ‘new medievalism’, a system of overlapping or segmented authority systems that undermines the sovereignty of states. He analyses this threat as four components that are generally consistent with the argument being offered in this book. They are:

  • A tendency for states to amalgamate on a regional basis (e.g. the EU);
  • The disintegration of states into constituent nationalities;
  • The emergence of international terrorism;
  • Global technological unification

However, Bull asserts that there is no evidence for the emergence of a world society that displaces the states system but his criterion for the emergence of a world society is too severe by most standards embracing: ‘not merely a degree of interaction linking all parks of the human community to one another but a sense of common interest and common values, on the basis of what common rules and institutions may be built” (1977: 279). No self-respecting globalization theorist would subscribe to such a straw-person condition … It does allow Bull happily to conclude, in the face of a great deal of evidence that he adduces to the contrary, that: ‘the world political system of whose existence we have taken note in no way implies the demise of the states system’.”

4.

29 —  Rosenau’s analysis of emerging global interdependence is another example of what might be called a dualistic approach to the current transformation. [note 10]. Rosenau’s early work (1980) concentrates on what he calls ‘transnationalization’. This is a process by which inter-governmental relations at an international level are supplemented by relations between non-governmental individuals and groups. Here Rosenau is a technological determinist much in the fashion of Kerr and his colleagues or Bell:

Dynamic change, initiated by technological innovation and sustained by continuing advances in communications and transportation, has brought new associations and organizations into the political arena, and the efforts of these new entities to obtain external resources or otherwise interact with counterparts abroad have extended the range and intensified the dynamics of world affairs. (1980: 1-2)

So the proper study for a political science of world affairs is no longer simply ‘international relations but ‘transnational relations’ involving complex extra-societal relationships between governments, governmental and non-governmental entities. Non-governmental interaction rebounds onto states to produce an increasing level of interdependence between them and a disintegrative effect as it promotes intra-societal groups to the world stage. This involves: ‘a transformation, even a breakdown of the nation-state system as it has existed throughout the last four centuries’ (Rosenau 1980: 2).

5.

41 – he [Robertson] no longer speaks of an international system of states but of globalization at the cultural level. He begins by giving a two-part definition of the concept:

Globalization as a concept refers both to the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole … both concrete global interdependence and consciousness of the global whole in the twentieth century. (Robertson 1992:8).

6.

45 – he [Robertson] claims that globalization, for example, is neither necessarily a good nor a bad thing – its moral character will be accomplished by the inhabitants of the planet.

7.

46 – Not all theorists accept Robertson’s view that the cultural cleavages that might prevent globalization have now been closed. Kavolis (1988), for example, would argue that such a view represents a peculiarly Western version of culture in which religion is conceived to be an increasingly subordinate subset of it. Rather, under Islam, for example, culture is enclosed by and is subordinate to religion. To the extent, then, that religions offer differential moral codes we can identify separated civilizational structures that constrain individual action. World culture is, for Kavolis, divided into at least seven such incommensurable civilizational systems: Christian, Chinese (Confucian-Taoist-Buddhist), Islamic, Hindu, Japanese (Shinto-Buddhist-Confucian), Latin American syncretist, and non-Islamic African (Kavolis 1988: 210-12).

8.

47 – The burgeoning development of international organizations during the twentieth century does not, Giddens insists, imply a loss of sovereignty for the nation-state but rather the securitization and institutionalization of that sovereignty. The reflexive system of international relations affirms the territorial and ethnic integrity of individual nation-states. Indeed, it provides a secure environment in which new states, however small and weak, can emerge and to some extent prosper.

9.

53 – The contemporary order, Lash and Urry argue, is therefore: ‘a structure of flows, a de-centered set of economies of signs in space’. Insofar as these flows of symbols are undermining nation-state societies we can identify a process of globalization. This involves (1994: 280-1):

  • The development of transnational practices (see Chapter 2 on Rosenau);
  • The development of localized sites, ‘global cities’ that originate transnational practices (see King 1990b);
  • A decreasing effectivity of state policy instruments (see Chapter 5)
  • An increasing number of inter-state connections (see Chapter 5);
  • The embryonic development of global bureaucracies (see Chapter 5);
  • The emergence of new socio-spatial political entities (see Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 on ethnic nationalism);
  • An overall decline in the sovereignty of the state. [note 2]

10.

54 – Giddens is notable within the current upsurge of interest in general social change for his insistence that current transformations constitute a continuation of rather than a break with modernity. While such postmodernists as Lyotard (1984) would point to current uncertainties as the consequence of the collapse of foundationalist meta-narratives that previously attempted to provide comprehensive answer to questions of human existence, Giddens argues that there is nothing new in this. Modernity has always created uncertainty and as the juggernaut gathers speed the incapacity of knowledge systems to tell what to do becomes chronic. Giddens characterizes the contemporary period as a high or radicalized modernity in which concerted action on a global scale is increasingly probable, although linked to processes of dispersal and localization. Postmodernity is for him a utopian condition in which human beings have resolved their problems within each of the four organizational clusters of modernity. A postmodern society would incorporate: a post-scarcity economy; multilevel political participation, especially at the local level; the humanization of technology; and global demilitarization (Giddens 1990: 164).

11.

55 – We might argue that if people in Tokyo can experience the same thing at the same as others in Helsinki, say a business transaction or a media event, then they in effect live in the same place, space has been annihilated by time compression.

12.

62-64 – THE GLOBALIZATION PROPOSAL

Taken together, the above arguments represent a new sociology of globalization that has emerged over the past five to ten years. In summary, it proposes the following:

  1. Globalization is at least contemporary with modernization and has therefore been proceeding since the sixteenth century. It involves processes of economic systematization, global culture or consciousness. The process has accelerated through time and is currently in the most rapid phase of its development.
  2. Globalization involves the systematic interrelationship of all the individua social ties that are established on the planet. In a fully globalized context, no given relationship or set of relationships can remain isolated or bounded. Each is linked to all the others and is systematically affected by them. This is especially true in a territorial sense (i.e. geographical boundaries in particular are unsustainable in the face of globalization). Globalization increases the inclusiveness and the unification of human society.
  3. Globalization involves a phenomenology of contraction. Although commentators often speak of the shrinking of the planet rather than a literal truth, that is, the world appears to shrink but (pretty obviously) does not materially do so. The particular phenomenological registers that alter the scalar appearance of the world are time and space. Because space tends to be measured in time [note 4], to the extent that the time between geographical points shortens so space appears to shrink. Insofar as the connection between physically distant points is instantaneous, space ‘disappears’ altogether [note 5]. A more recent phenomenon is that localizations of time disappear – if, for example, a Korean house-spouse can watch with an America FA-18 pilot as she bombs a chemical factory in a Middle East war, their time frames become synchronized. Globalization implies the phenomenological elimination of space and the generalization of time.
  4. The phenomenology of globalization is reflexive. The inhabitants of the planet self-consciously orient themselves to the world as a whole – firms explore global markets, countercultures move from an ‘alternative community’ to a ‘social movement’ action configuration, and governments try to keep each other honest in terms of human rights and dash to commit military assistance to the maintenance of world order.
  5. Globalization involves a collapse of universalism and particularism. The earlier phase of unaccelerated globalization had been characterized by a differentiation between arenas in which general and rational standards could apply and others in which the particularities of relationships and the qualities of individual persons were paramount. This differentiation is registered in the well known sociological distinctions between life chances and lifestyles, gesellschaft and gemeinshaft, public and private spheres, work and home, and system and lifeworld. The separation was largely accomplished by boundaries in time and space but because globalization annihilates time and space the distinctions can no longer apply. Each person in any relationship is simultaneously an individual and a member of the human species – they can say ‘I am myself’ and ‘I have rights’.
  6. Globalization involves a Janus-faced mix of risk and trust. In previous eras one trusted the immediate the knowable, the present and the material. To go beyond these was to run the risk of injury or exploitation. Under globalization individuals extend trust to unknown persons, to impersonal forces and norms (the ‘market’, or ‘human rights’) and to patterns of symbolic exchange that appear to be beyond the control of any concrete individual or group of individuals. In so doing they place themselves in the hands of the entire set of their fellow human beings. The fiduciary commitment of all the participants is necessary for the well-being of each individual member. A fiduciary panic (e.g. the ‘Black Monday’ stock market crash of October 1987) creates the risk of global systematic collapse.

13.

66 – the original and continuing fundamental of economic globalization is trade. Trade can link together geographically distant producers and consumers, often establishing a relationship of identification as well as interdependence between them… Under current circumstances, wearing Armani fashions or grilling food on a Hibachi barbecue (itself a polyglot phrase) provides an opportunity for commonality of lifestyle across the globe… Overall in the period since industrialization, world trade, understood as the exchange of commodities and services between nation-states, has expanded very rapidly. One indicator is the positive ration of growth rates in trade to growth rates in production throughout the nineteenth century and second half of the twentieth. Only during global conflict and associated economic depression that marked the first half of the twentieth century did that ration turn negative. Even then global trade continued to grow except in the twenty years following the Great Depression (Gordeon 1988: 43).

14.

68 – the inter-war period saw a return to protectionism as national governments strived to restore their shattered economies by curtailing imports and subsidizing exports. However, the emergence of the USA as the post-Second World War political, military and economic hegemon game it an opportunity to establish a trade system that suited its interests. Insofar as much of the rest of the industrialized world had been exhausted or devastated by war, the USA was well placed to take advantage of a liberalized trade regime.

15.

76 – Until recently it was also possible to offer the more moderate critique of MNEs that they had grown so large and powerful that they undermined the legitimate and often democratically established sovereign authority of the nation-state but in the current context of the delegitimation of the state the debate has become polarized.

16.

79-80 – We consider in an earlier section the liberalization of world trade. Emmott (1993: 8) argues that in a completely liberalized trade environment and where the marginal costs of transportation are low, MNEs would cease to exist. This is because firms would obtain the best cost advantage by producing in one place so as the maximize the economies of scale and licensing offshore production where such economics failed to offset transportation costs. In a truly globalized economic context then, the MNE would disappear in favor of local producers marketing globally.

17.

82 – More importantly there has been a process of global cultural transmission to which the Japanese version of the best way has been carried around the world as a system of ideas. This transmission occurs in three arenas: in the popular mass media Japanese production systems are represented as a highly generalized but somewhat ambivalent ideal, discussed in terms of both fear and admiration; in universities, business school academics and organization theorists conduct comparative research on the Japanese advantage and these results are both published and incorporated into organizational design courses for potential managers; and third they are written up as easily digestible popular books that can be peddled to managers as manuals for organizational transformation.

18.

86-87 – In the post-Second World War period, the key treaty in the so called Bretton Woods Agreement of 1944 established the IMF. The IMF’s brief was to maintain stability in rates of currency exchange by providing temporary loans to carry states through periodic balance-of-payment deficits without massive structural readjustment. For some 25 years the IMF thus effectively returned American balance-of-payment surpluses to countries in deficit, although in chronic instances it did demand readjustment, and in many cases states simply went ahead and devalued. An important stabilizing factor was the linking of the dollar to a specific price of gold… the key event that signaled the collapse of the Bretton Woods system was the withdrawal of the US dollar from the gold standard, because the relationship could no longer be maintained in the face of dollar inflation. Already the IMF had supplemented gold by so-called Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), the rights to borrow from the IMF as necessary, as the fiduciary support for the dollar and other currencies. Now SDRs have replaced gold, sterling and the US dollar as the global standard of accounting and are constituted as a weighted mix of five currencies ($US, £Stg, DM, FFr, ¥). However, the SDR has not become global currency.

19.

101 – the excuses of politicians for their failures have taken on a global hue: our economy is failing because of the recession in the USA or Europe or Japan or somewhere else; our currency is declining because of the activities of unidentified international speculators; our air is dirty because someone else has had a nuclear meltdown; we cannot solve the problem of urban crime because it is fed by international drug syndicates; or, we cannot feed our people because the level of international aid is not adequate. Insofar as politicians deflect blame on to the global arena, collective political actors will focus their attention on that arena and the nation-state will progressively become an irrelevance.

20.

111 – The redefinition of social problems as global problems undermines the sovereignty of the state in three ways:

  • It redirects individual political preferences;
  • It delegitimizes the nation-state as a problem-solver;
  • It sets up new international organizations to which some elements of state sovereignty are progressively surrendered [note 4]

21.

111 – to speak of a globalized polity can invoke the image of a world government, a single unitary and centralized state similar to contemporary nation-states or even a world empire. This need not be the case. A globalized polity can have the characteristics of a network of power centers, including nation-states, coordinated by means other than command. In principle such power centres might be coordinated because their controllers shared common norms and common interests and sought to move towards consensus on such issues. Such a view is not as romantically optimistic as it may appear. Regional groupings of states, such as the EU, and a wide range of specialized interest associations already coordinate their activities on just such a basis. However, such an outcome is less likely than a polity organized as a market, or more precisely as multiple markets. Here process of allocation (e.g. of welfare, economic development, peace and security, pollution, cultural performances) would be governed by competition between power centres much in the same way that global flows of finance or of information are the consequences of multiple complex decisions.

22.

113 – [NGOs] constitute a complex and ungovernable web of relationships that extends beyond the nation-state.

23.

117-118 – Certainly, such developments indicate that in many instances national interests are becoming merged into global ones.

There are three possible theoretical interpretations of these developments. The first suggests the emergence of a ‘new world order’, a liberal construct that implies the disappearance of the superpowers and the emergence of a highly differentiated yet relatively consensual family of nations that punishes the deviant and protects the defenseless. This is clearly an ideological conception that seeks to obscure very real differences of interest and military power. The second is the suggestion that the USA won the cold war and that the world is dominated by an unchallenged hegemon. Curiously this view appears to be the property both of leftist critics and rightist triumphalists. If fails in the light of American impotence in Vietnam, Iran and Somalia. The USA succeeded in Kuwait but only with allied military support, UN legitimacy, tacit Russian acceptance, and European, Japanese and Arab financial assistance. This suggests that a third interpretation, that of the emergence of a multipolar world, has much to offer as a realistic assessment. The domination of the superpowers has disappeared to be replaced by a fluid and highly differentiated pattern of international relations that exhibits much of the chaos and uncertainty that is also found, for example, in financial markets.

24.

121-122 – A shift is under way towards a culture described by Inglehart (1990) as the rise of post-materialist values. The traditional focus of politics in liberal democracies was material values, issues to do with the distribution and redistribution of goods and services. The typical division in this politics was between a ‘right’ or conservative side that stressed the preservation of property ownership and freedom of contract in markets, often coupled with a paternalistic welfareism, and a ‘left’ or social democratic side that stressed the redistribution of property and income on a more egalitarian basis, a state-interventionist welfare system and the regulation of markets. Post-materialist values emphasize community, self-expression and the quality of life. Here a political value division emerges between a ‘new right’ which stresses individual autonomy, the right to consume and governmental minimalism and a ‘new left’ that stresses the empowerment of minorities and a mutuality of interests among human beings and between them and their environments. Inglehart estimates that by 1970 post-materialists outnumbered materialists in the core group of liberal democracies in Western Europe, North America and Japan.

The question now arises as to why this value shift should be regarded as a globalizing trend. The answer is that it contributes to many of the developments discussed above. In materialist value-conflicts the key issue is the role of the state and the way in which it represents the interests of one class or another. Here the state is the focus of political attention and its structures will be extended insofar as political parties can enhance their support by so doing. In post-materialist politics the state is problematic: the new right regard it as a transgressor on individual freedoms, and a distorter of markets; the new left views it as an agency of rampant materialism and a means for the juridificational control of populations and their minorities. More importantly post-materialism focuses political attention on trans-societal issues, the planetary problems discussed above. It indicates such phenomenologically globalizing items as ‘the individual’, ‘life’, ‘humanity’, and ‘the earth’ that indicate the universality of the condition of the planet rather than the specific conditions of their struggle with an opposing class about the ownership of property or the distribution of rewards.

25.

125 – the current accelerated phase of globalization does not refer to the triumph and sovereign domination of any one of these ‘metanarratives’ (Lyotard 1984) but rather to their dissipation. A globalized culture is chaotic rather than orderly – it is integrated and connected so that the meanings of its components are ‘relativized’ to one another, but it is not unified or centralized.

26.

136 – globalization does not necessarily imply homogenization or integration. It merely implies greater connectedness and de-territorialization.

27.

144-145 – It might be argued that consumer culture is the source of the increased cultural effectivity that is often argued to accompany globalization and postmodernization. Insofar as we have a consumer culture the individual is expected to exercise choice. Under such a culture, political issues and work can equally become items of consumption. A liberal-democratic political system might be the only possible political system where there is a culture of consumption precisely because it offers the possibility of election. But even a liberal democracy will tend to be McDonaldized, that is leaders will become the mass mediated images of photo-opportunities and juicy one-liners, and issues will be drawn in starkly simplistic packages. Equally work can no longer be expected to be a duty or a calling or even a means of creative self-expression. Choice of occupation, indeed choice of whether to work at all, can be expected increasingly to become a matter of status affiliation rather than of material advantage.

28.

170 – Fordism was indeed paradigmatic and idealized rather than generalized. It never accounted for more than 10 percent of manufacturing labor, even in the US (Crook, et all. 1992: 172).

29.

171 – Although Soros has been mentioned widely in academic circles as an example of a capitalist who can move governments, he did so because he speculated against their currencies and not because he ruled or controlled them. Soros cannot be regarded as a traditional industrial capitalist located in a class struggle with a proletariat. He is simply a market speculator on a grand scale.

— end book —

Repost: Augustine: What is Government without Justice?

augustine

[Repost from this link]

St. Augustine states that kingdoms without justice are mere robberies, and robberies are like small kingdoms; but large Empires are piracy writ large (5th C)

 

St. Augustine (354-430), in Book IV of The City of God, relates the story about the pirate who had been seized and brought before Alexander the Great. The cheeky pirate asks Alexander what is the real difference between a pirate and an emperor apart from the scale of action

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

  1. HOW LIKE KINGDOMS WITHOUT JUSTICE ARE TO ROBBERIES.Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on. If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity. Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

    5. OF THE RUNAWAY GLADIATORS WHOSE POWER BECAME LIKE THAT OF ROYAL DIGNITY.

    I shall not therefore stay to inquire what sort of men Romulus gathered together, seeing he deliberated much about them,—how, being assumed out of that life they led into the fellowship of his city, they might cease to think of the punishment they deserved, the fear of which had driven them to greater villainies; so that henceforth they might be made more peaceable members of society. But this I say, that the Roman empire, which by subduing many nations had already grown great and an object of universal dread, was itself greatly alarmed, and only with much difficulty avoided a disastrous overthrow, because a mere handful of gladiators in Campania, escaping from the games, had recruited a great army, appointed three generals, and most widely and cruelly devastated Italy. Let them say what god aided these men, so that from a small and contemptible band of robbers they attained to a kingdom, feared even by the Romans, who had such great forces and fortresses. Or will they deny that they were divinely aided because they did not last long? As if, indeed, the life of any man whatever lasted long. In that case, too, the gods aid no one to reign, since all individuals quickly die; nor is sovereign power to be reckoned a benefit, because in a little time in every man, and thus in all of them one by one, it vanishes like a vapor. For what does it matter to those who worshipped the gods under Romulus, and are long since dead, that after their death the Roman empire has grown so great, while they plead their causes before the powers beneath? Whether those causes are good or bad, it matters not to the question before us. And this is to be understood of all those who carry with them the heavy burden of their actions, having in the few days of their life swiftly and hurriedly passed over the stage of the imperial office, although the office itself has lasted through long spaces of time, being filled by a constant succession of dying men. If, however, even those benefits which last only for the shortest time are to be ascribed to the aid of the gods, these gladiators were not a little aided, who broke the bonds of their servile condition, fled, escaped, raised a great and most powerful army, obedient to the will and orders of their chiefs and much feared by the Roman majesty, and remaining unsubdued by several Roman generals, seized many places, and, having won very many victories, enjoyed whatever pleasures they wished, and did what their lust suggested, and, until at last they were conquered, which was done with the utmost difficulty, lived sublime and dominant. But let us come to greater matters.

    6. CONCERNING THE COVETOUSNESS OF NINUS, WHO WAS THE FIRST WHO MADE WAR ON HIS NEIGHBORS, THAT HE MIGHT RULE MORE WIDELY.

    Justinus, who wrote Greek or rather foreign history in Latin, and briefly, like Trogus Pompeius whom he followed, begins his work thus: “In the beginning of the affairs of peoples and nations the government was in the hands of kings, who were raised to the height of this majesty not by courting the people, but by the knowledge good men had of their moderation. The people were held bound by no laws; the decisions of the princes were instead of laws. It was the custom to guard rather than to extend the boundaries of the empire; and kingdoms were kept within the bounds of each ruler’s native land. Ninus king of the Assyrians first of all, through new lust of empire, changed the old and, as it were, ancestral custom of nations. He first made war on his neighbors, and wholly subdued as far as to the frontiers of Libya the nations as yet untrained to resist.” And a little after he says: “Ninus established by constant possession the greatness of the authority he had gained. Having mastered his nearest neighbors, he went on to others, strengthened by the accession of forces, and by making each fresh victory the instrument of that which followed, subdued the nations of the whole East.” Now, with whatever fidelity to fact either he or Trogus may in general have written—for that they sometimes told lies is shown by other more trustworthy writers—yet it is agreed among other authors, that the kingdom of the Assyrians was extended far and wide by King Ninus. And it lasted so long, that the Roman empire has not yet attained the same age; for, as those write who have treated of chronological history, this kingdom endured for twelve hundred and forty years from the first year in which Ninus began to reign, until it was transferred to the Medes. But to make war on your neighbors, and thence to proceed to others, and through mere lust of dominion to crush and subdue people who do you no harm, what else is this to be called than great robbery

There is another king, one called Jesus

When Paul and his companions had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women. 

But other Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd, But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other believers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. (Acts 17:1-9, NIV)

 


Paul and company have traveled about 100 miles in the first sentence of this chapter. He arrives in Thessalonica and “reasoned with” the Jews. This verb translates from the original language as dialegomai, the same word that English speakers today use as dialogue, the conversation between at least two people. Paul’s dialegomai with these Jews extended beyond greetings and small talk; he “explained and proved” the real concept of Messianism, not as a political savior but as a suffering savior.

The common view among first century Jews of the messianic hope was especially informed by the Roman occupation. During the intertestimental period, the Jews living in Palestine were subjected to various ruling empires, depending on the century. Persia, Greece, Egypt, at one point the Jews themselves again, and finally Rome. Also, the prophetic literature of the post-exilic Jews began to narrow down the concept of God’s redemption into messianism; God would redeem the descendants of Abraham through a single person who would restore political control to the throne of David.

What the Jewish people and especially teachers of the scriptures did not expect was that the messiah would return to overthrow the tyranny of sin, not the tyranny of Rome. No political solution would be given — give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. When Peter attacks the soldier arresting Jesus, his rebuke is simple: they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. If Jesus had come to fight a war, his disciples would be killed in that battle.

Instead, they would all die in a different way, many years later, some at the hands of the very same ruling elites. But not now, not yet. Jesus goes on trial before the Roman governor over Palestine and says that “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders.”

So then, the messiah did not meet expectations. He acted outside of, parallel to the political system. He didn’t come to establish a kingdom on earth; he came to establish the kingdom of heaven.

Buried deep in this analysis lies the assumption that the kingdoms of heaven and earth are separate.

The Jewish people never expected the suffering Messiah whom Paul explains in verse 3. They never conceived of resurrection for the Messiah himself; of all people, he should be immutable, unchanging, representative in some way of God’s own character. Imagine the shock on their faces as they first hear teachers of Jesus of Nazareth — that treasonous villager whom someone mentioned years earlier, and whom they promptly forgot as another failed messiah.

Paul and his company then face a pre-trial for defying the decree of Caesar. Caesar had allowed any religion to exist, so long as among their various gods they included him. To polytheists this was not an issue; to the monotheists, the tension was between imminent government persecution and worshiping the one true God. Note that the Jews were totally comfortable undermining Paul’s public credibility by pointing this out, which clearly implies that the Jews themselves had been complying with the emperor worship in some way.

I think that the Jewish accusers accidentally misrepresent Paul more favorably than they intended. Paul, in making the point that Jesus is king, doesn’t discount that Caesar also is a king. Caesar being the emperor of Rome is just a fact. But Paul isn’t merely placing Jesus as a second parallel king; Jesus is a second, superior king. Though their domains are established adjacent, Jesus’s power extends far beyond and even within that of Caesar’s rule. This undermines the autonomous authority of the emperor.

There is indeed another king, one called Jesus. His citizens are not of this world, because his kingdom is not of this world. We hold dual citizenship and every day must tease out the boundary lines between our allegiance to Christ and our subjection to the earthly rulers. But whenever these priorities conflict, we know which to follow — and which is supremely greater.

Understanding Romans 13 without the Hyper-Calvinist Spin

[The title and idea for this essay come from and compliment the essay “Understanding Romans 9 Without the Calvinist Spin,” which I highly recommend for reasons unrelated to this post].


1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

This passage is the main scriptural text on governance in the New Testament. As John Piper pointed out 35 years ago, this text has “often been used to justify an unseemly conformity to the status quo in this country and in others” (link). This passage is often thrown around in Evangelical circles, from my experience, with the weight of divine authority. Justly so, since the passage was divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Yet not so. The words themselves are divinely inspired, but the misunderstanding of the twin doctrines of Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility is not inspired by the Holy Spirit. So then, before fully explaining Romans 13, I must dissect the entire debate over free will and determinism.

But first, go read this.

D.A. Carson here articulates a position called Compatibilism. This is the argument that the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are, in some way, compatible.

The Sovereignty of God

People who believe in this doctrine will point to areas of scripture like Ephesians 1 and Romans 9, and several stray verses here and there that imply man is powerless to choose.

For example, the deafening mention in John 6 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” is explicit that salvation cannot ever come without God’s expressed permission (if not more). In John 17 the same idea appears again: “None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction,” and, well, does this require more convincing?

If you do need more convincing, in Ephesians 1 Paul writes that God “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world” and that “in love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,” oh and also that believers have “been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.” This really doesn’t cover it, but the prooftexting can relent for now.

The sovereignty of God is another way of saying that God is omnipotent — all powerful. He can do anything he wants, with no restrictions. David Platt has this to say on the sovereign power of God:

“Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things and by Your will they existed and were created.” By Your will. God is sovereign over it all. He is sovereign over all nature — the wind blows at the bidding of God. The sun’s heat radiates according to His commands. Every star in the sky comes out at night because He calls them each by name. There is not a speck of dust on the planet that exists apart from the sovereignty of our God.

He is sovereign over all nature, and He is sovereign over all nations, our God charts the course of countries. And he holds the rulers of the Earth in the palm of His hand and this is good news. It is good news to know that Ahmadinejad in Iran is not sovereign over all, and neither is Hamid Karzai or Hu Jintao or Kim Jong Un or Benjamin Netanyahu or Barack Obama. Our God is sovereign over every single one of them and He holds them in his hands. He is sovereign over them, sovereign over you, sovereign over me, sovereign over everything.

He creates all things, sustains all things, knows all things, He ordains all things. He owns all things. The author of Creation has authority over all creation. He has all the rights. American Christians: you don’t have rights. God alone has rights. He has the right to save sinners, and He has the right to damn sinners. People say well what about man’s responsibility? Doesn’t man have anything to do with his destiny? Well sure he does, man is certainly responsible in human history, but God is sovereign over human history. (cool video link).

(If this doesn’t clear it up, here are at least 3 dozen more resources from Desiring God, here are more from Ligonier, the Gospel Coalition search results, a wiki article on the omnipotence of God, and after that a good book to read would be this book or this book)

The Responsibility of Man

There was a great debate 1700 years ago between the writings of Augustine and Pelagius, the former believing in original sin and the latter rejecting it. Pelagius’s idea was that God only holds us responsible for sins we had the option to commit. So, we must have the ability to do good.

This was roundly rejected by Augustine, who argued that man’s default position of sin as nature (original sin) meant that we actually are “dead” in sin as Ephesians 2:1 teaches. But this is besides the point. Wayne Grudem observes the real issue at hand:

“If our responsibility before God were limited by our ability, then extremely hardened sinners, who are in great bondage to sin, could be less guilty before God than mature Christians who were striving daily to obey him. . . The true measure of our responsibility and guilt is not our own ability to obey God, but rather the absolute perfection of God’s moral law and his own holiness (which is reflected in that law). “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). (Systematic Theology, 499).

In quoting this verse from Matthew, Grudem notes a powerful logical dynamic: we have been commanded to obey, and by issuing a command, God has placed the responsibility outside of himself to achieve its completion.

In fact, if we reject Pelagius’s argument, there is no way to avoid the conclusion that man bears the responsibility for all his actions. God has created man with this inherent responsibility. Grudem, elsewhere in his book, writes this:

If we do right and obey God, he will reward us and things will go well with us both in this age and in eternity. If we do wrong and disobey God, he will discipline and perhaps punish us, and things will go ill with us. The realization of these facts will help us have pastoral wisdom in talking to others and in encouraging them to avoid laziness and disobedience.

The fact that we are responsible for our actions means that we should never begin to think, “God made me do evil, and therefore I am not responsible for it.” Significantly, Adam began to make excuses for the very first sin. . . Unlike Adam, Scripture never blames God for sin. . . Now we may object that it is not right for God to hold us responsible if he has in fact ordained all things that happen, but Paul corrects us: “You will say to me, then, ‘Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?’ But who are you, a man, to answer back to God?” (Rom. 9:19-20). (334).

Really, every commandment given in scripture could be cited here as further proof of human responsibility, because a command itself implies that the recipient must obey, because if there is no “must” (to be replaced by “could”) then it is just another option, and do remember that “options” also indicate human free will. So, then, either way, the burden of responsibility falls on man.

Compatibility

The argument from the initial D.A. Carson link is that, despite the complete contradiction, both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man are found in abundance in scripture.

These should be mutually exclusive because if humans are passive recipients of someone else’s decisions, they would not be considered morally responsible for their actions, since they didn’t act freely. Conversely, if humans act from their own will, how could their actions be retroscribed upon God? Would that make him a God-of-the-retrospect, like the Mandate of Heaven from ancient China, where anything that happened was retrospectively declared the will of God? This was in spite of the fact that every action along the way came from humans.

Yet, we have both. There isn’t, to the best of my knowledge, a logical synthesis other than to suspend logic and act like the problem isn’t there.

John MacArthur, with his usual clarity of theology, writes this:

Scripture affirms both divine sovereignty and human responsibility. We must accept both sides of the truth, though we may not understand how they correspond to one another. People are responsible for what they do with the gospel—or with whatever light they have (Romans 2:19, 20), so that punishment is just if they reject the light. And those who reject do so voluntarily. Jesus lamented, “You are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life” (John 5:40). He told unbelievers, “Unless you believe that I am [God], you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). In John chapter 6, our Lord combined both divine sovereignty and human responsibility when He said, “All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (John 6:37); “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life” (John 6:40); “No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44); “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47); and, “No one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (John 6:65). How both of those two realities can be true simultaneously cannot be understood by the human mind—only by God.

And recall again D.A. Carson’s statement from the bottom of the first link:

at the end of the day, what the Bible does do is insist that those two propositions I gave you stand at the very heart of any faithful Christian understanding of the mystery of providence. God is sovereign, but his sovereignty doesn’t mitigate human responsibility. We human beings are morally responsible creatures but that doesn’t mean God is contingent. And we live with those tensions and all the mysteries of how God in his eternity relates to us in our time. We live with those tensions until the very end.

Returning now to Romans 13

Forgive me for the above longwindedness, but this topic of the sovereignty of God is directly implicated in this passage when Paul writes “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” So we see that God has acted in His omnipotence to appoint someone as king.

But how, practically speaking, did that person become king? Did the Roman Senate hold an emergency meeting and elect a new king at the death of the last? Did the existing king have two sons, and the younger killed the older so that he could ascend to the throne? Did the property-owning citizens of Athens gather together and write names on stones to cast their vote?

In the first example, the Senators are the ones directly responsible for the King coming to power. In the second, the younger brother is responsible for his own coming to power, and sinned in the process. In the third, the citizens of Athens are responsible for their actions.

All rulers, besides the direct ascendancy of a first-born son, come to power because of some actual choice made by a human. (Even in the first-born son case, the Father decided to have a child, or decided not to have the child killed, or decided not to have the throne filled otherwise, or what-have-you).

This is especially true in democracies (read: systems that hold a vote), where the responsibility actually falls upon everyone in the country. This is part of the argument (though not consistently followed) by conservatives who decried President Obama as a sign of God’s judgement against the nation. It could also be true of President Trump, though only time will tell.

My argument in interpreting Romans 13 is this: Paul is giving the sovereignty of God position, but like other texts that depend upon the sovereignty of God, we must look elsewhere in scripture to receive the whole message.

You wouldn’t read Ephesians 1 and think “well, since God is sovereign, man has absolutely no responsibility for his actions,” yet this is exactly what people do with Romans 13 all the time.

So what would it look like to apply the Compatibilist model of the will of God to something like Government?

In this model, when discussing salvation, the following things are true:

  1. we do not know the future
  2. we are held responsible for our choices
  3. God commands a response

And I would say that, when applying this Compatibilist model to Government, those translate roughly into these three principles:

  1. we do not know who will win an election, and therefore God’s will can only be acted upon in retrospect (which means it can’t be acted upon).
  2. we must act according to conscience, which I venture to say should be informed by Scripture, by history, and by political science (though blending these can be difficult work).
  3. we must participate in the decision making process, and if not, we implicitly still are, much like a person who makes no decision about salvation is actually just deciding to reject God.

So then, let us return to the original passage. Romans 13, with some commentary.

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,
4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

“Those that exist have been instituted by God” is true in the same way that the color socks you wore today were instituted by God, or that you took 31ml of Nyquil last night rather than 30ml was instituted by God. In no way does this abrogate the responsibility of the people doing the tangible action of choosing the authorities. This is especially obvious today, when hundreds of millions of people cast votes, rather than 30 in the Senate or some other less-than-obvious system. So then, while God can be credited when a good ruler comes to power, man must take the blame when the ruler turns out to be sour.

This type of theological minutia may seem nitpicky, or irrelevant. “What difference does it make?” someone may ask.

The difference is that, as a result of human responsibility, we must treat governance like any other choice. We are responsible! We must take action when things go wrong! Now this action must occur within the confines of the system, and violent revolution is never prescribed in scripture to overthrow existing evil governments (except in the entire book of Joshua where the Israelites are commanded to overthrow the existing governments in the land of Caanan … though this does not translate to today)

This lays out the foundation of my belief in Christian political activism. I must take seriously the notion that God can and does act through humans to change governments, to elect leaders, to restructure society. I can safely push against the system, in one sense because God will override my actions if they are outside his will, in another sense because my actions themselves are determined by his will (?) and therefore they cannot happen unless they are allowed by him, and in one final sense because I have been commanded to love justice and hate evil, and this includes any institution for which I am responsible.

Notice that Paul gives the function of government: the authority must be an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. But notice also that Paul says nothing about the proper Christian response to authorities who themselves are wrongdoers. Who is the King above all Kings? God, yet what if in his silence he is commanding humans to act on his behalf? This seems to be exactly what he does with kings themselves.

My main takeaway point from this pedantic essay should be: to read Romans 13 without the hyper-Calvinist spin, simply add in the recognition that humans are responsible for their actions, and suddenly the all-too-familiar blurry line between His sovereignty and our responsibility has reappeared. What do we do? This is just as difficult a question to answer on government as it is on anything else.

De-political

A few years ago I ordered James Davison Hunter’s book To Change The World.

He offers some tidy categories to understand how Christians interact with the world, he analyzes each, and presents his solution. I read this as a high school sophomore and it was a few years out of my comfort zone; I spent nearly 50 hours on the 286 pages.

I won’t try to re-articulate Hunter’s thesis- I can’t do it- just buy the book- or listen to this– but one smaller idea from the book recurred to me yesterday.

So I decided to return to JDH’s book for further reading. I’m collecting quotes as support for a future argument, but I’m posting them here, along with some current events commentary, for the public good.

I scanned the index for “politicization” and found these quotes, given in full paragraphs for context.

Politics has become so central in our time that institutions, groups and issues are now defined relative to the state, its laws and procedures. Institutions such as popular and higher education, philanthropy, science, the arts, and even the family understand their identity and function according to what the state does or does not permit. Groups (women, minorities, gays, Christians, etc.) have validity not only but increasingly through the rights conferred by the state. Issues gain legitimacy only when recognized by law and public policy. It is only logical, then, that problems affecting the society are seen increasingly, if not primarily though the prism of the state; that is, in terms of how law, policy, and politics can solve them. (103)

JDH has just asserted that modern American society defines almost everything relative to the State (and those things not included are quickly becoming included), rather than relative to some other category, or just in and of itself. How do we see this effect in society?

Politicization is most visibly manifested in the role that ideology has come to play in public life; the well-established predisposition to interpret all of public life through the filter of partisan beliefs, values, ideals, and attachments. How does this come about? My contention is that in response to a thinning consensus of substantive beliefs and dispositions in the larger culture, there has been a turn toward politics as a foundation and structure for social solidarity. But politicization provides a framework of expectations and action and very little substantive content. In a diverse society, ideological politicization is a natural expression of the contest to provide that content. (103)

Politicization impacts not just system-level factors, but individuals and the way they generate solutions to public issues:

My purpose here is not to suggest that the outcome of any particular issue is good or bad but rather to observe the historical tendency, in recent decades, toward the politicization of everything. This turn has brought about a narrowing of the complexity and richness of public life and with it, a diminishing of possibility for thinking of alternative ways to address common problems and issues. (106)

This narrow focus on politics as the solution to all public issues leads to coercion, or more often the threat of coercion.

The politicization of everything is an indirect measure of the loss of a common culture and, in turn, the competition among factions to dominate others on their own terms. Our times amply demonstrate that it is far easier to force one’s will on others through legal and political means or to threaten to do so than it is to persuade them or negotiate compromise with them. (107)

Later in the book JDH makes the argument (in many words) that democracy and the State, while related in many obvious ways, are fundamentally different. This has some implications: chiefly that the state is usually not subject to the popular will, but more interestingly that

there are no political solutions to the problems most people care about. Politics can provide a platform for dissent and procedures for establishing public order and, as just noted, the state can address administrative problems. This is what it is designed to accomplish, but this only happens through accommodation, compromise, and conciliation. The state can also address some of the legal and administrative aspects of these problems and in this way either help or hinder the resolution of value-based problems. Laws that prohibit discrimination against minorities are one important illustration of the constructive influence of the state. And while politics can only do so much, it is also true that bad politics can do truly horrific things. These are all good reasons to be involved in the work of creating and maintaining good government. The issue is really one of the appropriate expectations one should have of the state and its instruments. (171)

So after conceding that the State is itself amoral, he acknowledges its limitations:

What the state cannot do is provide fully satisfying solutions to the problems of values in our society. There are no comprehensive political solutions to the deterioration of “family values,” the desire for equity, or the challenge of achieving consensus and solidarity in a cultural context of fragmentation and polarization. There are no real political solutions to the absence of decency or the spread of vulgarity. But because the state is a clumsy instrument and finally rooted in coercion, it will always fail to adequately or directly address the human elements of these problems; the elements that make them poignant in the first place. As a rule, when the state does become involved in such matters, its actions can often create more problems through unintended consequences, not fewer. (171)

At best, the state’s role addressing human problems is partial and limited. It is not nearly as influential as the expectations most people have of it. It is true that laws are not neutral. They do reflect values. But laws cannot generate values, or instill values, or settle the conflict over values. The belief that the state could help us care more for the poor and the elderly, slow the disintegration of traditional values, generate respect among different groups, or create civic pride, is mostly illusory. It imputes far too much capacity to the state and the to the political process. (171)

The central problem underpinning all of the above limitations:

Values cannot be achieved politically because politics is invariably about power- not only power, but finally about power. For politics to be about more than power, it depends on a realm that is independent of the political sphere.  It depends on moral criteria, institutionalized and practiced in the social order, that are autonomous from the realm of politics. The problem is that the impulse toward politicization extends to the politicization of values. This means that the autonomy of moral criteria on which a higher practice of politics depends is increasingly lost. Today, most of the ideals and values that are discussed in public have acquired political content and connotations. Fairness? Equity? Justice? Liberty? These have come to have little or no meaning outside of the realm of politics. The other ideals and values that are discussed in public have been largely reduced to instruments for one side or another in the quest for power. Decency, morality, hope, marriage, family, and children are important values but they have become political slogans. (172)

I don’t think that JDH’s book argues for decentralized government, although that isn’t always bad either. Instead, it argues (specifically to Christians) we ought to see the public sphere as more than just the political sphere, and find other ways outside of the coercive structure of the State to solve public problems.

The thought that prompted this delve back into To Change The World was that perhaps the problems of structural racism displayed by current events involving black civilians and white officers do have a structural origin, but the structure isn’t a political one. JDH contradicts this hypothesis with his concession that “Laws that prohibit discrimination against minorities are one important illustration of the constructive influence of the state,” so maybe political solutions do exist specifically in the category of racial tension and resolution.

But problems like gentrification, street gangs in all-minority neighborhoods, legacy college applications, entrenched subconscious perceptions of other races, and more are all problems that, while having a political solution, can mostly be solved only though social or moral campaigns, individualized incentives, private charity, or other apolitical means.

So I remain skeptical that the main solution to questions of race require political consideration at all. We all know that, in the coming months, pundits will try to politicize even further questions of race and policing (oh wait, they already have), and the solution to that is definitely not political.