Telos 178 (Spring 2017): Original Sin in Modernity

Telos 178 (Spring 2017) is now available for purchase in our store.

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary,” James Madison famously writes in Federalist No. 51. The defectiveness of the human will and the human intellect make government necessary, whether in John Calvin’s Sermon on the Galatians, which Madison echoes, in the locus classicus of this argument, Augustine’s City of God, or in book 9 of Plato’s Laws, which already describes humans’ innate capacity for evil as “a result of crimes long ago.” In modernity, Christian tropes like the Fall and original sin are used not only to justify political power, but also to temper utopian political goals. Reinhold Niebuhr emphasized the latter, for example, when he described the preference of the United States’ purportedly “Calvinist fathers” for relying upon checks and balances rather than the intelligence and goodwill of future American statesmen. Even the most familiar political analyses of original sin and the anthropology of Western Christianity contain this tension between justifying and limiting political power.

Continue reading →

The Force of Resistance: Religious Events and Political Discourse

Although a frustrating incalculable for the engineers of government, religion must be acknowledged as that without which the techniques and technologies of human subjectivity would not exist. I am not here arguing for the adoption of certain religious practices or beliefs, but simply qualifying the centrality of the political by insisting on the necessity of the religious. I maintain that the asymmetry characteristic of all civilizations stems from ruptures that I describe as religious, or evental—terms that I maintain are equivalent. To probe the intricacies of asymmetrical warfare in the twenty-first century is to ask, “Whence and whither the Event?”

Continue reading →

Arguments and Aspects in Political Discourse in Ethnic Conflicts in Europe

Ten characteristics of the patterns of ethnic conflict in Europe—the way they are reflected in media and culture. They serve as the key to conceptual understanding of the nature of confrontation, aggression in communication in the public sphere in Europe at present, and erosion of democratic values

Continue reading →

Insufficient Secularization

The process of secularization is insufficient if, voided of its original pathos, it leads to any form of sacralization of the immanence. Secularism becomes insufficient, if not harmful, in the same way as religious fundamentalism, if it becomes an obstacle to building pluralistic coexistence. Therefore, secularism should acknowledge the emergence of religious challenges. Religion has found, in the crisis of reason (metaphysical, scientific, and political), an opportunity not only to be present in the public sphere, but also to demand the right to equal treatment—appealing to the same democratic principles of secularism—and the right to political participation. Secularism cannot respond to these challenges with another form of “enlightened fundamentalism.”

Continue reading →

Michael Ley on the Suicide of the West: The Islamization of Europe

In his account of the impact of Islam on Europe, Michael Ley pulls no punches, especially for all those readers, like the present reviewer, who still hope that a Muslim humanism and not Islamist terrorism will become the primary social movement in global Islam in the years to come. In a nutshell, Ley’s main theses are the following: Orthodox and radical Islam are the scourge of humanity. Ley calls Sharia Islam “the worst danger for democracy and human rights in the 21st Century.” Only an Islam without Sharia is compatible with human rights. Yet that is a vision for the future; current reality, according to Ley, is different. The Islamization of Europe is, according to Ley, the most visible change in most European societies. While liberal and educated citizens consider the increasing influence of conservative and radical Islam with great concern and regard the future of the continent as rather bleak, their so-called progressive opponents interpret the ongoing Islamization as a cultural enrichment that contributes to the historical overcoming of the obsolete nation-state. Ley goes as far as to say that today the pioneers of radical post-national Europe would prefer to abolish all symbols of national identity: indigenous Europeans should waive all national, cultural, religious, and ultimately also traditional sexual identities.

Continue reading →

The Development of the International Community, Human Personality, and the Question of Universal History in the Thought of Luigi Sturzo

Luigi Sturzo (1871–1959) was an Italian priest, social reformer and the founder in 1919 of the Popular Party that later became the Christian Democratic Party, and social theorist who wrote extensively about history during the last century. Regarding history, Sturzo’s great contribution is his account of the formation and development of the “International Community” as one of the concrete forms of human society subject to its general laws. Sturzo locates the roots of this concept in the Christian revelation of human equality before God and the subsequent religious duty to love one’s neighbor in a manner that transcends the traditional boundaries of the ancient world. Thus the social values of the pre-Christian world are inverted, and human personality assumes the mantle previously held by the social and ethnic bonds of that era.

Continue reading →