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The Noise of Liberalism and Organic Community

October 17, 2008

Following yesterday’s generalizations, I would suggest that liberalism, or rationalism in politics, has mirrored the rise of industrial economy and the growth of the state to be prone to, as Zach states, plans for reorganizing society involving the use of the coercive power of the state instead of people and families and small communities changing their lives and habits, where the truly transformative is located. We need recognition that the human will cannot liberate emotional and spiritual emptiness, and that freedom as a supreme principle is an empty end unless there is an understanding of what it is for – community and communion. We must know, therefore, what is good and true in the human life. There is more to what it means to be human, a relational being, than the pursuit of pleasure. We can in fact be drawn to the permanent things, spiritually, even as notions such as good and true are not easily defined. I think that each person is partly made by language, which present categories through which the world is perceived and motives are developed. Yet humans are also users and makers of language; and in the remaking of life and internal character there is necessarily a shared, collective process. James Boyd White writes that this reciprocity is defined by language – our language is the set of shared expectations and common terms that enable us to think of ourselves as a ‘we’, and that language too can be transformed. Humans, in their communicative acts, create social settings. This is a conduit through which individuals form relationships. Communication is reflexively constituted within the act itself, forming and reforming identity, social relationships, and ideas. The complications of morality and politics – and indeed, all the perplexing aspects of the relational life – are thus encompassed by the field of communication, including the beginning and negotiation of meaning. Persuasion is inseparable from cultural and economic evolutions. Social practices are inseparable from language. In this continuous creation are occasions where an individual might remake what White terms the “shared resources of meaning,” which shapes the scope and direction of public, individual, and communal life. For Catholics, through the center, and through the noise, of these persuasions are many centuries of human consciousness aspiring to apprehend the right order of the soul. From age to age they are expressed afresh, but still sustained by the spirit of faith and the reality of the Eucharist. This informs and reminds humanity of the inherent dignity of our nature.

  1. October 18, 2008 10:55 am

    Thoughtful and beautifully written post. Unsurprisingly I find myself nodding in agreement. I wonder what your fellow Vox Nova contributors think of these ideas? They are uncharacteristically silent! I would like to hear from them (Henry, Poli, RCM, Michael I) if possible.

  2. jonathanjones02 permalink
    October 18, 2008 2:04 pm

    Thanks, Zach. From reading your posts and comments, I think our political and social sentiments are similar, following Burke, Chesterton, Eliot, Kirk, Santayana, and so on….

  3. October 18, 2008 8:36 pm

    The year of Paul should focus on what he did as well as what he said. Paul cleverly created worshipping/social communities that broke across class boundaries, bringing the wealthy into contact with the poor. And all the tensions that created then, are about the same now. No better, no worse. Living this out is very complicated and challenging. To remain in community, with more than a nuclear family under one roof, with the door available to Christ as He comes in the poor, the neighbor, is a bit more challenging than the elitist organizations of the intellectual Catholic right (think First Things) or a welfare office.

    Soup kitchens with the personal touches are closer to the contact needed for the initiations of communities.

    The writers you mentioned are negligent on the role of Christ in the poor in community and the hip approaches to Christ from “orthodox” sources put Christ in the poor into the corner as so much garnishing on a plate. Not well-integrated, not well-understood by these sources.

    Christian communities cannot live as Christian for long without Christ in the poor.

  4. jonathanjones02 permalink
    October 19, 2008 3:16 pm

    The writers you mentioned are negligent on the role of Christ in the poor in community

    Oh? I can’t imagine that you’ve looked much into Chesterton or Kirk, then, just to name two.


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