Wednesday 10 May 2017

Manent Mercerdi #9: after Macron?

I can't find anything that Manent has written specifically on the election of Macron to the French presidency, but the following excerpts from recent commentary might suggest a Manentian approach:

"The perils in question [of the project of 'significant numbers of the bien pensant [who] came to view both nations and classes as social forms to be steadily overcome' ] lay centrally in hoping for the democratic consent of the governed, while simultaneously eroding the main historical source of what Manent calls social ‘communion’. For it is principally the nation that, since the nineteenth century, has been the political focal point of identity, loyalty and accountability in Europe. Insofar as the EU has sought to shift these foci to other, supranational institutions and imperatives, it has embarked on an unprecedented project, one that is unparalleled, indeed, anywhere else in the world.

"In short, below each nation lies ‘civil society’, which remains politically and economically an insufficient object of aspiration; above each nation lies a putative ‘great, enormous European nation’, of indeterminate boundaries and without historical or cultural ballast. Between these sub- and supranational poles the EU finds itself without real moorings, refusing, as Manent puts it, to ‘define itself politically’, and hence taking on the character of ‘an imperious, indefinite, and opaque movement’."

(from 'What French philosophy can tell us about the EU, nationhood, and the decline of social democracy', Tom Angier here )

'Whereas the state can be neutral about religion and morality, society can never be neutral. In fact, the state’s neutrality, its formless character, is present precisely to protect the myriad beliefs, moral codes, and religious practices that comprise society. A secularism that preserves a flourishing society of diverse religious practice is completely different from a secularism that socially engineers a religiously neutral society. The latter would be a bland formless void, devoid of religious devotion, beauty, or character.

'The secularists who advance such a vision assume that Islam will reform by incorporating itself into France. In assuming this, they think that Islam should no longer be an objective value but rather be recognized as a subjective choice—a manifestation of individual rights rather than objective religious law. Muslims, of course, do not agree with this. For practicing Muslims, Islam is not a subjective choice. When Westerners treat it as one, they render themselves incapable of dealing with terrorism and the integration of Muslim immigrants.

'Manent argues that a radical secularist society, one that is formless because it refuses to be shaped by any religious inheritance, is incapable of inviting outsiders to join it. Just as a house must have walls for the host to invite a guest into it, so a society must have customs, ceremonies, and convictions to invite outsiders to join. But a radical secularist society has none of these things: no borders, no common customs, no ceremonies, no education about a common national life, no patriotism. Without common political life, a country has nothing to offer those coming from outside.'

(from 'Vive la Résistance!' in the Washington Free Beacon, by Ian Lindquist here)

'Now, with the rise of Islamic immigration, France faces the ultimate test of its own new political ideals: the growing strength of a minority that rejects diversity, rejects the supremacy of the individual, and therefore rejects the very ideology that allowed the minority to grow.
The only solution, Manent argues, is for France to insist that Muslims accept a role as French citizens, as participants in a common enterprise. But that cannot be if native French citizens do not first acknowledge their role as citizens rather than autonomous individuals.

'What is the difference between citizens and individuals? Citizens recognize their duties along with their rights. Small children will always behave as individuals. In a healthy society their parents behave as citizens—because there is no better way to train people in the habits of accepting responsibility than giving them the care of their own children.'

(from Phil Lawler, 'Apres moi le deluge', Catholic Culture, here)

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