Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Rather unusually for him, Francis Fukuyama makes some reasonable points in the excerpts below

Modern identity politics springs from a hole in the political theory underlying liberal democracy. That hole is liberalism's silence about the place and significance of groups. The line of modern political theory that begins with Machiavelli and continues through Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and the American founding fathers understands the issue of political freedom as one that pits the state against individuals rather than groups. Hobbes and Locke, for example, argue that human beings possess natural rights as individuals in the state of nature - rights that can be secured only through a social contract that prevents one individual's pursuit of self-interest from harming others.

Modern liberalism arose in good measure in reaction to the wars of religion that raged in Europe after the Reformation. Liberalism established the principle of religious tolerance: the idea that religious goals could not be pursued in the public sphere in a way that restricted the religious freedom of other sects or churches. (The actual separation of church and state was never fully achieved in many modern European democracies.) But while modern liberalism clearly established the principle that state power should not be used to impose religious belief on individuals, it left unanswered the question of whether individual freedom could conflict with the rights of people to uphold a certain religious tradition.

Freedom, understood not as the freedom of individuals but of cultural or religious or ethnic groups to protect their group identities, was not seen as a central issue by the American founders, perhaps because the new settlers were relatively homogeneous. In the words of John Jay (in the second Federalist Paper): "A people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles."

Multiculturalism - not just as tolerance of cultural diversity but as the demand for legal recognition of the rights of racial, religious or cultural groups - has now become established in virtually all modern liberal democracies. Politics over the past generation has been consumed with controversies over affirmative action for African Americans, bilingualism and gay marriage, driven by formerly marginalised groups that demand recognition not just of their rights as individuals but also of their rights as members of groups. And the United States' Lockean tradition of individual rights has meant that these efforts to assert group rights have been tremendously controversial - more so than in modern Europe.

Modern liberal societies in Europe and North America tend to have weak identities; many celebrate their own pluralism and multiculturalism, arguing in effect that their identity is to have no identity. Yet the fact is that national identity still exists in all contemporary liberal democracies.

In Europe after the second world war there was a strong commitment to creating a "post-national" European identity. But despite the progress that has been made in forging a strong European Union, the continent's identity remains something that comes from the head rather than the heart.

But many Europeans also feel ambivalent about national identity. The formative experience for modern European political consciousness is the two world wars, which Europeans tend to blame on nationalism. Yet Europe's old national identities continue to linger. People still have a strong sense of what it means to be British or French or Dutch or Italian, even if it is not politically correct to affirm these identities too strongly. And national identities in Europe, compared with those in the Americas, remain more ethnically based. So while all European countries have the same commitment to formal political citizenship equality as America, it is harder to turn that into felt equality of citizenship because of the continuing force of ethnic allegiance.

The old multicultural model has not been a big success in countries such as the Netherlands and Britain and needs to be replaced by more energetic efforts to integrate non-western populations into a common liberal culture. The old multicultural model was based on group recognition and group rights. Out of a misplaced sense of respect for cultural differences - and imperial guilt - it ceded too much authority to cultural communities to define rules of behaviour for their own members.

Liberalism cannot be based on group rights because not all groups uphold liberal values. The civilisation of the European enlightenment, of which contemporary liberal democracy is the heir, cannot be culturally neutral since liberal societies have their own values regarding the equal worth and dignity of individuals.

Cultures that do not accept these premises do not deserve equal protection in a liberal democracy. Members of immigrant communities and their offspring deserve to be treated equally as individuals, not as members of cultural communities. There is no reason for a Muslim girl to be treated differently under the law from a Christian or Jewish one, whatever the feelings of her relatives.

Multiculturalism, as it was originally conceived in Canada, America and Europe, was in some sense a "game at the end of history". That is, cultural diversity was seen as a kind of ornament to liberal pluralism that would provide ethnic food, colourful dress and traces of distinctive historical traditions to societies often seen as numbingly conformist and homogeneous. Cultural diversity was something to be practised largely in the private sphere, where it would not lead to any serious violations of individual rights or otherwise challenge the essentially liberal social order.

By contrast, some contemporary Muslim communities (and those of other religions) are making demands for group rights that simply cannot be squared with liberal principles of individual equality. These demands include special exemptions from the family law that applies to everyone else in the society, the right to exclude non-Muslims from certain types of public events, or the right to challenge free speech in the name of religious offence (as with the Danish cartoons incident).

In some more extreme cases Muslim communities have expressed ambitions to challenge the secular character of the political order as a whole. This clearly intrudes on the rights of other individuals in the society and pushes cultural autonomy well beyond the private sphere.

Asking Muslims (and other religions) to give up group rights is much more difficult in Europe than in the United States, however, because many European countries have corporatist traditions that continue to respect communal rights and fail to separate church and state. The existence of state-funded Christian and Jewish schools in many European countries makes it hard to argue in principle against state-supported religious education for Muslims.

In Germany the state collects taxes on behalf of Protestant and Catholic churches and distributes revenues to church-related schools. Even France, with its strong republican tradition, has not been consistent on this issue. After the French revolution's anti-clerical campaign, Napoleon restored the role of religion in education and used a corporatist approach to manage church-state relations.

These islands of corporatism where European states continue to recognise communal rights were not controversial prior to the arrival of large Muslim communities. Most European societies had become thoroughly secular so these religious holdovers seemed quite harmless. But they are obstacles to the maintenance of a wall of separation between religion and state. If Europe is to establish the liberal principle of a pluralism based on individuals rather than groups, then it must address these corporatist institutions inherited from the past.




Best-seller: "The holy scripture of Islam - the Quran - has become the top selling book in Denmark one year after the blasphemous caricature crisis shook up the Danish society and the Muslim world, the Munich-based Focus news magazine reported Monday. The Quran was ranked second during the important Christmas book sales period. Buyers of the Quran include many young Muslims who grew up in Denmark but do not speak Arabic".

Australia. Muslim leader advocates war with non-Muslims: "A speaker at a conference in Sydney's south-west says a revolution or a civil war may be necessary in order to create an Islamic state, or caliphate. The meeting has been organised by the controversial Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in several countries overseas. A number of politicians have called for the group to be banned here. One of today's speakers, Ashraf Doureihi, told the audience action needs to be taken to ensure an Islamic state is created. "It is important... [to move] collectively in the Muslim world to demand this change from such influential people in our lands, even if it means spilling onto the streets to create a revolution or staging a military coup," he said. Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Wassim Doureihi has told the audience a number of speakers will address the meeting today and discuss ways of establishing an Islamic super-state. "As we were here today, what is at stake is not just the destiny of the Muslim world but indeed the whole of mankind," he said.



"All the worth which the human being possesses, all spiritual reality, he possesses only through the State." -- 19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Hegel is the most influential philosopher of the Left -- inspiring Karl Marx, the American "Progressives" of the early 20th century and university socialists to this day.

The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialistisch) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party".

R.I.P. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet deposed a law-defying Marxist President at the express and desperate invitation of the Chilean parliament. He pioneered the free-market reforms which Reagan and Thatcher later unleashed to world-changing effect. That he used far-Leftist methods to suppress far-Leftist violence is reasonable if not ideal. The Leftist view that they should have a monopoly of violence and that others should follow the law is a total absurdity which shows only that their hate overcomes their reason -- Details here and here

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