[Cross-posted to In Medias Res]

Lew Daly’s book, God’s Economy: Faith-Based Initiatives and the Caring State, is something of an odd masterpiece, a brilliant revisionist study of the idea of church-state partnerships in the struggle for social justice and collective goods. I say “revisionist” thinking primarily in terms of my own–and Daly’s–American context; in societies where the legacy of established churches remain, the available language for talking about the various means of providing for the poor (whether that language be legalistic, political, or simply economic) is much broader than is the case in the United States, where the separation of church and state–as well as a fairly individualistic Protestantism, both mainline and evangelical–have long been (and to a degree, still are) the dominant paradigms. So Daly’s arguments about the long evolution of different arguments about how church’s can and should supplement the state (or vice versa!) in providing welfare and protection to the needy will likely not seem quite so “revisionist” to those schooled in, or experience with, Catholic social teachings, Dutch Calvinist social pluralism, and the like. But to this reader, at least, they were fantastically eye-opening.

In a book so broad, it is difficult to pick out and summarize any one of its many fascinating claims–but, since book reviews oblige one to do so, I’ll try (guided significantly by his precis, here). Among other things, Daly argues that the “compassionate conservative” vision of “faith-based initiatives,” the effort by the Bush administration to extend the provisioning of essential welfare resources through the agency of various disparate religious organizations, was hardly an original idea, but was in fact yet another development in an ongoing argument which extends back to, and took its original form in the wake of, the French Revolution. In the (most people would say admirable) efforts of the leaders of the revolution to end the numerous and often horrific abuses which the ancien régime had visited upon the French people–abuses which were often harshly tied up in the land and industries which the church and hereditary aristocrats controlled and employed to their own undemocratic ends–the French radicals went too far; they insisted upon, in contrast to the multiple modes of life and association which characterized traditional France, the existence of only one, uniform “corporation”: the French nation itself. There could be no other communal property, no other citizen attachments, nothing. The aim was egalitarian (the worth of such an aim being something upon which the readers of Front Porch Republic will likely disagree). The result, however, was not; the advantages enjoyed by the wealthy did not disappear (as they almost never do), but the ability of all others to build for themselves communities that could help them sustain mutually enriching lives was seriously compromised. This was a radical individualism, which in particular left the poor (or those who worked in less-than prestigious professions, or who lived in less-than powerful parts of the country) unable to organize and effectively support and defend their ways of life. As these same individualistic ideas spread throughout Europe and America along with the Industrial Revolution, there appeared in response strong critics of French revolutionary fervor. Daly focuses in particular upon Catholic social and Dutch anti-revolutionary thinkers, both of whom, in different ways, emphasized the crucial role that the Christian religion must play in bringing security to those who, in the modern era, lacked such. The argument, from that point on, was and has been a continuing legal, political, and economic tug-of-war, with one side–the side taken by both advocates of a secularist state and supporters of an untrammeled capitalist market–seeing politically organized charitable and church groups as their common enemy, while the other side strives to advance the argument for social pluralism and libertas ecclesiae, the freedom for churches to do God’s work amongst the poor.

The book is powerful, provocative, and filled with eminently-arguable theses. (For example, in the foreword to the book, E.J. Dionne, while strongly praising Daly’s work, take serious issue with him over his rather extensive claims regarding the influence Catholic and social democratic thought had on the New Deal.) So let me pick out one of the book’s many strands of thought: leaving aside the question of just how one determines in the first place the extent and nature of the egalitarian support which social justice demands the poor receive to enable them to be full-fledged members of the community, what does Daly have to say about the role (and the inter-relationship) which churches, local communities, and the central state have in providing such justice?

In what I thought to be a particular insightful section of the book, Daly reflects upon the mid-1900s rediscovery of “social capital” as a term of analysis when thinking about community. About this, he writes:

John DiIulio and other social scientists have made significant efforts to [consider the role of religious providers in terms of social capital]. [Robert] Putnam himself…[has] argued that “nearly half of America’s stock of social capital,” as measured by membership, philanthropy, and volunteerism, “is religious or religiously affiliated.” Or, as John DiIulio terms it, roughly half of our social capital is really “spiritual capital.” Yet when Putnam specifies that “houses of worship” spend $15-20 billion annually on social services, it should also be clear that the scale of spiritual capital (at least by this one measure of involvement) barely touches the magnitude of social needs: $15-20 billion equals approximately $350 annually for every person near or below the poverty line as of 2007. In gross comparative terms, the total spiritual capital of the nation amounts to less that 20 percent of the total “poverty gap” in the United States–the amount by which impoverished people fall below the poverty line, which totaled $107 billion in 2001. This is to say nothing of the tens of millions of people who live near the poverty line on low-wage pay or go through their days only one medical crisis or one corporate merger away from plunging downward to the bottom rungs of the income ladder….

[E]ven if the “faith factor” is definitively proven [to be effective in responding to the needs of poor individuals and families] with further comprehensive research (perhaps leading politicians to prioritize faith-based services beyond current efforts to “level the playing field”), this does nothing to rectify what is obviously a more fundamental problem: the deficient scale of faith-based welfare (indeed of all welfare combined) in a country with growing poverty and increasing downward wage pressures affecting tens of millions of households above the poverty line….What social assistance should accomplish and by what means, and how the cost should be borne, assuming that more should be done, is…a larger question, not just of welfare policy, but of “public purpose,” or what [Abraham] Kuyper and his scattered American followers call “public justice” (pp. 190-191).

Public justice calls for more and better aid to be given to the suffering among us, but it cannot (and, speaking both realistically and politically, will not) be given along convention welfare state lines. I would argue that the long and not-yet (perhaps never-to-be) concluded debate over paying for and providing health care in the United States is a fine example of such: despite many serious attempts to introduce more localism or more communitarianism (or both) into the reforms proposed, in the end the result was perhaps predictable from the beginning: a merging of state and corporate power to accomplish much needed, but still philosophically regrettable, ends. What will have to happen to truly expand upon the vision of faith-based initiatives–the vision of Christian aid being sufficient to satisfying both the human and the communal needs of all needy people in any given polity–is a “re-engineering of the [whole] social safety net along pluralist lines….from the perspective of families and communities, and from a religious perspective, restricting the state while ignoring what is happening in society is not genuine pluralism but simply a faith-based alliance with liberal anti-statism” (pp. 192-193). Seeking to cut back on welfare, and encouraging–whether legally or monetarily or both–churches to take up the slack, while not seeking at the same time to seriously repair a socio-economic order which continues to prize an ultimately unforgiving and rapacious individualism above all, is no way to be true to those principles of compassion and justice to which God calls the believer. A more comprehensive approach to welfare–what Daly calls, in reference to many policies which exist in Western European states, “Christian Democratic welfare policy”–is what is needed: a welfare policy that orients the whole of society, in its many different (and much in need of defense!) parts, around a common restorative goal. To quote Daly again:

Put simply, the faith-based initiative embodies a pluralist vision of societal restoration, based on legal recognition of the real personality of social groups–most importantly families and their churches and communities–coupled with requisite public provisioning for their security and special needs if this autonomy is infringed or reduced by other centers of power, whether public or private. In its fullness this vision encompasses a mandate of stopping or mitigating the impact of all institutions or organized powers that threaten the “tie-beams and anchors of the social structure,” or “God-willed community,” as Kuyper put it (pg 193).

Daly’s conclusion is, ultimately, a hopeful one–that the introduction of a constitutional and procedural language in American politics for seeing welfare delivered and supplemented by locally grounded faith-based organizations is a step towards the kind of pluralistic re-imagining which is necessary for social or public justice to be achieved. Christians are called to help the poor; the best way to help them is to enable them to find and defend dignified ways of family and communal life; the scale of the need in regards to such is massive, and cannot at present be provided by churches alone–but to leave churches out of the matter entirely is to fail to acknowledge the critique, authority, and dignity which local religious bodies can provide; hence, the development of church-state partnerships is a crucial step forward in the filling of a gap in our thinking about the needs of the poor which extends back to the original, violent separating of the individual from the communities of faith and security which they once knew.

I wish I could share in Daly’s optimism, but I do not. Not because I do not find his analysis of this–as well as many other–strands of the argument persuasive; on the contrary, I do, and like Adam Webb says in his consideration of the book, I am fully supportive of Daly’s proposals. But Adam also touches on what I think to be the crucial issue. He observes that “plural sovereignty is grounded on a telos,” and that if we want to make subsidiarity into something more than Michael Walzer’s (admirable from the communitarian point of view, but limited insofar as the Christian one goes) “spheres of justice,” then we must have a “more rigorous–and universal–underlying view of human purpose, human dignity, and the practices that secure them.” We must, in other worlds, be able to collectively conceive of an end for welfare, or else doing justice for the poor will be indistinguishable from endlessly providing them with one or another different egalitarian program. Let me be clear: I think that many of those egalitarian programs are valuable, and usually are much better–when it comes to keeping families and neighborhoods intact–than nothing. But on their own they will only incidentally provide space for the development of truly democratic communities, of communities of capable, responsible, active, compassionate citizens and human beings…and sometimes, tragically, will become, as Daly notes in his critique of the welfare state, an active obstacle to such. What is needed is for the state to become, as Daly’s title puts it, a “Caring State”….and for the state to care, it must believe in something. It needs a civil religion–and certainly a more robust one that the United States has at present.

Most of those who take the idea of civil religion at all seriously in our hyper-pluralistic and individualistic age probably already agree that America’s civil religion, to the extent that it has one, has been tainted by a Christianity Lite, or “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” as some prefer to call it. I’m on record as believing that, to whatever extent such a self-regarding, non-judgmental, atheological civil religion has captivated the country, that…well, there could be worse fates. A civil religion which is tolerant, pragmatic, open-minded, decent, and merciful, is to be much preferred over one that is none of those things. But that is a civil religion too well-suited to our meritocratic age; it has no real notion of suffering or sacrifice, and hence has no need of grace. If your religion–or at least your concept of the moral norms of the civil order–lacks a notion of grace, it therefore also lacks a notion of gifts; all it can say is that some people are lucky, not that some people are blessed. And with that slips away the notion of a blessed–or, as Martin Luther King preferred, a “beloved”–community, one in which the members’ feeling for and service towards one another reflects something larger, adds up to something larger. The simple principles of social justice and welfare without the teleological notions of adding up and gifting and blessing which the concepts of subsidiarity and “sphere sovereignty” (Catholic and Kuyperian terms, respectively) introduce can never fulfill their own–often unstated, and these days perhaps mostly forgotten–aspirations. It also makes them an easy target for libertarian-minded Christians, who wish to reject the aims of welfare entirely, or prefer to piously speak of freeing the churches to handle social welfare, without giving any thought to the pluralistic reality which–at least insofar as Daly thinks and hopes–faith-based initiatives hint at. But with America’s current civil religion, such hints will not be enough.

Rod Dreher touches on this point, tangentially, in his thoughts about Phillip Blond’s recent visit to the U.S., and the connection which “Red Toryism” might have to subsidiarian and localist reforms of the welfare state. While he was cheered by Blond’s diagnosis of our present condition, and applauded his solutions, he doubted their applicability: “[F]or [Red Toryism] to be true, people have to not only be virtuous, but to agree on what virtue is….What the poor need is not a politician, but a preacher….We are stuck being governed by a procedural liberalism because we cannot agree on what constitutes ‘the good life.’ Moreover, in our liberal/libertarian political settlement, we no longer even consider that a concept of the good life can be arrived at through political discussion. In a heterogeneous, culturally pluralistic society like ours, it’s not enough to point to the Christian tradition….[T]he radical transformation of our political and social life that Blond envisions will not take place through politics, but requires religious conversion.” I can’t disagree with Rod’s concerns. Indeed, I would extend them to Blond’s proposals themselves–if they are to be taken serious, if they are to be understood as contributing, in their own way, to same kind of Christian democratic project that Daly thinks may be enabled through faith-based initiatives, then they must remain teleological; they must maintain their religious point. Which means that the most important component of Red Toryism, like the most important component of Bush’s original faith-based idea, is the religious worldview behind them, and the ability to elaborate that worldview. For Bush, that worldview was essentially unexamined, as DiIulio’s own experience with the Bush administration proved. For Blond, that worldview is hopefully closer to the surface. The “Radical Orthodoxy” of John Milbank and others may seem, at first glace, an odd addition to the ongoing argument which Daly has traced, what were their talk of “traditionalist socialism” or “socialism by grace”. But a worldview that can provide an telos for the caring state like this one–“an associationist communitarianism, which combines left egalitarianism with conservatism about cultural and ethical values”–is something to be taken seriously.

Who knows? Perhaps, after Obama in America, after (perhaps) Cameron in Great Britain, Daly may have enough material to write an additional chapter to his impressive book. But in the meantime, he has given us plenty to debate about, all the same.

29 COMMENTS

  1. “But a worldview that can provide an telos for the caring state like this one–”an associationist communitarianism, which combines left egalitarianism with conservatism about cultural and ethical values”–is something to be taken seriously.”
    “Associationist communitarianism” just seems to suck the air right outta the room.
    The problem, or at least one of them, seems to be the act of combining an ungrounded and deformed category in “left egalitarianism” with a “conservatism,” that may potentially be some sort of ideology and consequently, derailed.

    Voegelin suggested that we “..go back to the experiences that engender symbols. No language symbol today can be simply accepted as a bona fide symbol, because corruption has proceeded so far that everything is suspect.”
    Why Philosophize? To Recapture Reality

    So, it appears, to my simple, poorly educated mind, that if we were to have another “Great Awakening” (find the Lord and go to Cherch)and return to the fundamental principles of republicanism we might, just might have a chance to avoid the horror of revolution, starvation, misery, and unpleasantness that cyclically plagues our specie.

  2. I don’t know but extolling the Christian Democrat platforms of Europe as a means to promote so called faith-based solutions here in the U.S. would seem to me to be contradicted by the increasingly moribund state of organized religion where those platforms already exist. Whenever this issue is raised, I am reminded of the standard precedent cited by the “Faith-Based”, Government-wed-to-organized- religion efforts of today. The dogma consists of a summary statement that this government has long joined forces with and promoted the efforts of organized religion in furthering social needs. The Religious schools amongst the Indians of the Ohio River Valley are generally cited as an early success story. I then recall a response to this effort by a wag of the time, don’t recall who, who replied: “Christianize the Indians, are they not dangerous enough already? ”

    It is obvious that organized religion should spare no effort in promoting the Good and filling in the gaps for those unfortunate souls in need of help. It is less obvious to me that this critically imperative societal need should be conjoined with government, and in particular, the totalitarian governments of this era. The recent experience with Faith Based Initiatives in the former administration is a case in point. Religion, particularly the culturally conservative political wing of religion was used disingenuously as a political apparatus in a superbly administered Bait and Switch Operation. This may or may not have been planned but it resulted in a most efficient manner. The Champion of this Politically Spiritual effort presided over one of the more preposterous responses to a human tragedy in the history of the nation. It was an event seared into our memory by a simple name: Katrina. Conversely, the Mormons, on their own and in their capacity as a compassionately independent spiritual force arrived on the scene and began to help far before anyone from the vaunted Faith Based Initiative Bureaucracy worked their charms with ice shipments. I am sure there are other religious efforts at relief all over that are far more efficient for their independence from the leveling and corrupting influence of an unabashedly consumptive State.

    Religious life in the United States of America, despite its many consumer-aspirational derivatives and despite the sordid quality of our popular culture remains a far more vital force within the larger society than it is where the Christian Democrats run their political platform because it has remained aloof and apart , by design, from a government that , like the Pharisees, is becoming more arrogant, unrestrained and unaccountable by the year. It has remained aloof and apart not because anyone wished to keep Judeo-Christian values from the polis but because those involved in laying the groundwork for a fecund spiritual and secular populace understood the tendentious and frequently dangerous history of combined political and religious forces. A richer religious life in this New World was desired, not feared. Make no mistake, organized religion will rue the day it attempted to further its spiritual aims in league with the base and craven concerns of empire. Even if one assumes they will reform this current mockery of government, circumspection about Bureaucratic Faith-Based efforts should remain paramount. Faith, charity, love and compassion yes, “Faith-Based” Bureaucracy, no. Faith loses every time it joins forces with the morally reductionist, abrading and “pragmatic” forces of this unfortunate necessity we call government. Marrying an essential spiritual need with its vital pastoral efforts to that of a properly approached unfortunate necessity would seem to be at very basis, counter-intuitive.

  3. Although this could have been said in response to either Daly’s, or Webb’s post, I say it here because this is the latest response to the original article by Daly. Therefore, I do not mean this as a direct response to Fox.

    The problem that I see with much of the doubt in both this response, and in the admittedly fleeting reflections by Dreher on Blond, is that although it is certainly true as Webb et al, have pointed out, that the change in a) the global framework or b) the National (United States) framework for the economy is not going to change swiftly, there is precedent for such change occurring slowly at the local level and then spreading into the national conversation, and eventually the global conversation. Take, for instance, the slowly increasing acceptance of Community Supported Agriculture.

    This idea is spreading because it was taken up by real persons in real communities and shown to be 1. workable 2. sustainable 3. more healthy, etc.

    A country’s population, is a fickle thing, and are not likely to easily adopt theoretical ideas without evidence that those ideas are practical as well. This is so because, apart from living abstract ideas of virtue, people must also live in the world. This is not to denigrate virtue at all, but to express the point that for people to live more virtuously, they must be shown examples of how the virtuous life can be lived.

    The liberal construction of the State may yield only to power, and not easily. Therefore in order to challenge the current regime, it seems necessary to develop alternative institutions, not linked to the National government (through funding, etc.) that contain real working examples of a more virtuous economy. These smaller scale economies could certainly be based around confessions, more specifically confessional places (ie Parish communities), but they could also be based around already existing smaller economies like those of the University (particularly relevant to the number of professors that hang their hats on the Porch). This is why, while I agree with the end that Daly seeks, the proper re-ordering of society toward a telos, I cannot agree with the method he seems to propose to achieve such an end.

    Achieving the right ordering of a country’s telos in order to create a more “Caring State” is not likely to come from procedural and constitutional changes that make it easy to distribute welfare through locally grounded faith based organizations. Nor is a “Caring State” likely to come through a Subsidarity that advocates the National government stepping in to supplement wages. For if society was already properly ordered toward a telos, or even in agreement on a local level about the proper role of “work,” rightly conceived, such a form of taking from one to pay another would not only be unwarranted, but undesirable.

    To sum up, as D.W. Sabin points out in his “irregular programming” response to Webb, to expect that change is going to take place at the National level is misguided, and most likely undesirable. This is so because, as has been exemplified with the “Faith Based Initiatives” of the Bush Administration, such changes are likely to be co-opted by that which creates them.

  4. Mr. Fox:

    “I wish I could share in Daly’s optimism, but I do not. Not because I find his analysis of this–as well as many other–strands of the argument persuasive; on the contrary, I do, and like Adam Webb says in his consideration of the book, I am fully supportive of Daly’s proposals.”

    I suspect you wished to say:

    “Not because I DO NOT find his analysis…persuasive…”

  5. Cheeks,

    While I yearn for a “Great Awakening,” that does not help us youngins who must live with the effects of Obamacare.

  6. Bob,

    The problem, or at least one of them, seems to be the act of combining an ungrounded and deformed category in “left egalitarianism” with a “conservatism,” that may potentially be some sort of ideology and consequently, derailed.

    Unless I am misunderstanding you (which I probably am), you seem to be assuming from the outset, and without argument, that “egalitarianism” is an “ungrounded” and “deformed” category of thought, one that, when combined with conservative principles will result in an “ideology” that will derail everything. Why do you make that assumption about egalitarianism? Daly presents it in his book rather uncomplicatedly; he is not, from what I can tell (though maybe I missed something in the book’s pages), trying to communicate any particular perspective of egalitarian justice, Rawlsian or otherwise. In fact, he barely ever uses the term “egalitarian.” He is, rather, assuming a rather plain Christian principle: that God does not want any of His children to suffer needless, while others have more than enough to spare. On this assumption turns his whole history of state-church associations: with the medieval world broken, and the individual free to conquer or be conquered for himself, who will care for the poor? His argument, like that of Radical Orthodox thinkers I bring in at the end of the post, is that a variety (or, in other words, a subsidiarity) of means are necessary, if one is to, first, provide for the poor (egalitarianism), and second, maintain those cultural structures to give them, and all of us, stability and meaning (conservatism). You may not like the policy recommendations that Daly or Blond or anyone else has in that direction, but why, exactly, do you see it tantamount to a terrible “ideology”?

    JLB,

    Thanks for catching the mistake! I’ve corrected it.

  7. Kevin,

    [T]here is precedent for such change occurring slowly at the local level and then spreading into the national conversation, and eventually the global conversation. Take, for instance, the slowly increasing acceptance of Community Supported Agriculture. This idea is spreading because it was taken up by real persons in real communities and shown to be 1. workable 2. sustainable 3. more healthy, etc.

    I completely agree, and I strongly suspect that Daly would agree also. His point, and it is one that I agree with, is that–as Adam observed–are already (and, in many ways, thankfully) so mobile and (inter-)national in the way we communicate and think, that it is probably irresponsible not to think at least partly in terms of actions and alternatives on the nation-state level, which is, at present, the biggest economic and political factor in the lives of individuals. Daly’s focus in something that is already on the central state’s plate: faith-based initiatives. His goal–which I think he achieves–is to give that idea some needed moral and philosophical weight, especially for American audiences. It is not, I think, to suggest that such a focus ought to replace attending to local actions at the same time.

    Therefore in order to challenge the current regime, it seems necessary to develop alternative institutions, not linked to the National government (through funding, etc.) that contain real working examples of a more virtuous economy. These smaller scale economies could certainly be based around confessions, more specifically confessional places (ie Parish communities), but they could also be based around already existing smaller economies like those of the University (particularly relevant to the number of professors that hang their hats on the Porch). This is why, while I agree with the end that Daly seeks, the proper re-ordering of society toward a telos, I cannot agree with the method he seems to propose to achieve such an end.

    Fair enough. But keep in mind that “the end that Daly seeks” is not just any kind of telos (again, as I said above to Bob in response to egalitarianism, he never actually uses that language himself), just a very specifically Christian one: to care for the poor. Will “smaller-scale economies,” as valuable as they may be to a rethinking of ordinary and everyday interactions and priorities (like what we choose to eat!), actually provide sufficient welfare and security to those in need? I don’t know how Daly would respond if the question was put to him directly, but on the basis of the passages I quoted, I think he would be dubious: global, corporate capitalism has created a scale of dependency and deprivation far beyond the ability of parish communities (or university ones!) at present to be able to satisfy the basic requirements of compassion and public justice. Which leads me, as a sympathetic reader of Daly’s history, to think again of various sorts of progressive compromises: at the same time that we seek to “build down/away” from the central state, it is simultaneously necessary to strengthen those general structures which we wish to keep in place.

  8. Kevin H. we must all live with the pernicious effects of the Gifted One. However, that does not negate our obligation to participate in politike episteme as we seek the right order of the soul and society, and as we honestly and objectively analyze the failures and derailments of the individual and society, and perhaps as we reach some consensus no matter how unlikely.
    I’ve made my simple suggestions in a call for spiritual renewal and a re-establishment of republican political virtues. But, in terms of the “spiritual renewal” as well as “republican virtues” people lack that faith necessary..they have not suffered enough, they have not gone hungry, they have not been systematically murdered, raped, and tortured. Sadly, given the proclivities of human nature that’s what it may take to turn us toward the Logos.
    The primary danger I see with this discussion lies in the possibility of a gnostic derailment where there is a remnant remaining of the previously derailed form that captures the rising new movement, because of similarities, and returns to that dialectical-material process Voegelin described as a movement from an alienation (resulting from private property) and belief in God to fully understood human “freedom.”
    The self-salvation through knowledge, and the related Gnostic magic, provides a powerful platform for a leader who is psychopathological.

  9. RA Fox, you raise the concerns I indicated in my reference to Stanley Hauerwas and William Cavanaugh. I don’t know where the influential Christian Progressive era at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries falls within Daly’s narrative, but I’d hope it is addressed; a lot of things were tried in the 20th century after Kuyper and Leo XIII. I am not so sure we need another or even a “better” social gospel era. That said, I appreciate Daly’s desire to build up rather than merely critique, and his book is sure to prompt great conversations that need to be had.

    Kevin H, I think you’re right.

  10. R.A.,

    Having not actually read Daly’s book (although I certainly plan on it after these very constructive discussions), I may be operating from a position of ignorance. That being said, from the comments I have read, I would certainly agree that Daly’s efforts are to provide a moral and philosophical underpinning for Faith Based Initiatives which are already on the Central State’s Plate. To me that is not a positive goal to which we ought to lend our efforts. This is not only because it distracts from what ought to be the focus of our efforts at achieving a more communitarian model that would become the biggest political and economic factor in the lives of citizens, but also because such efforts lend only to justify the false liberal assumptions about the proper and functioning role of the Central State as the largest political and economic factor in the lives of the citizenry. We absolutely have a responsibility to think about alternatives that can provide for the poor, both in welfare and other types of security such as restoring wealth to the working class. However, the responsibility lies in creating challenges to the paradigm that liberalism sets up in the first place rather than operating inside of the bubbles that liberalism sets up for those portions of society that it operates to restrict or control (in this specific instance Christian groups that perform charitable works.) For a recent example of how the Central State first offers to “work with” such voluntary intermediary organizations and ends up coercing them to achieve its goals see the Catholic Hospitals.

    I would disagree that we have come too far and that the joint venture of corporate capitalism and global empire has made individuals so dependent that Truth about place, limits, and liberty cannot present an adequate challenge, and adequate support in the case of providing for the basic requirements of compassion and public justice. If we have, then I ask what’s the point? Instead, I would argue that attempting to accomplish those ends through national efforts will always lead to failure due to the lack of a true political community in which those ends you describe can be achieved. That is why I have such a problem with the Central State getting involved in such things as “Faith based Initiatives” in the first place. Apart from not only becoming co-opted by the Central State, such efforts have the further negative effect of destroying actual Faith based efforts that are already underway.

    I fully understand that Daly seeks a very specific ordering of the telos of the community, and in our current state of what Cheeks would call Anamnesis, this is probably not possible on the scale at which Daly desires. However, in order to re-achieve such a proper ordering of the telos of the community, I don’t think I would agree with some of Daly’s prescriptions.

    Bob,

    Dude, “politike episteme!” That’s exactly what I am trying to do here!

  11. Arben, the scholars who have published their work re: subsidiarity and distributism here are participating in an effort to put society, and in some ways the individual, in right order. The first question is not How do we care for the poor, the handicapped, those who suffer temporary setbacks, rather it is How are we to show people that the truth of man and the truth of God are “inseparably one?”
    These scholars are putting the horse before the cart; man must be brought to a recognition of the truth of the divine/human relationship. If he doesn’t understand that apodictical reality he is less than human.
    Without a knowledge and a desire of this condition, man and his institutions will always be dominated by the libido dominandi, and he will fall victim to the lie of “ignorance (agonia) within the soul.” That’s how important the metaleptis, the communion of God and man, is. It is the basis of his right ordering both as an individual soul and corporately in terms of the city. And, to muddy up the already muddy waters this must all be accomplished, if we follow Von Schelling, in terms of freedom (thus my argument for the republican form of gummint).
    Consequently, if we are not in right order, the question of “egalitarianism” becomes moot simply because the public cult experiences the derailment of the individual who rejects the truth of the soul.
    The individual and society will succumb to the immanent temptations. That is the condition in which we now live and the question is Are we to late? Surely we have lost the meaning of the old symbols of the republic..they are words, no more. Perhaps it is that man can not exist as a human being in an industrial or post-industrial civilization because of dialectic materialism? I don’t know.
    Please feel free to criticize this comment. It is difficult for me to follow the terminology you guys use and if I’ve misunderstood what you’ve written I do apologize.

  12. Kevin,

    I would certainly agree that Daly’s efforts are to provide a moral and philosophical underpinning for Faith Based Initiatives which are already on the Central State’s Plate. To me that is not a positive goal to which we ought to lend our efforts. This is not only because it distracts from what ought to be the focus of our efforts at achieving a more communitarian model that would become the biggest political and economic factor in the lives of citizens, but also because such efforts lend only to justify the false liberal assumptions about the proper and functioning role of the Central State as the largest political and economic factor in the lives of the citizenry.

    If our greatest goal is the weening of individuals away from their reliance upon the modern state in all its incarnations, then presumably trying to build up stronger arguments for anything which involves that modern state in any way is to be avoided. Daly himself is manifestly not a friend of the modern liberal welfare state. But he is apparently at peace with–or at least is willing to work with–the liberal state reality which the Western democratic world has before it nonetheless…perhaps because (and here I am speculating on the basis of the book itself) he thinks the rise of the liberal state itself, whatever its negatives (and it has many!) has been in part concomitant to efforts of the faithful to fulfill their Christian obligations to one another: to provide solidarity and care, in other words. Daly writes on pages 33-34:

    By the turn of the century…the visible inadequacy of voluntary religious assistance threatend the Christian faith with popular–and sometimes populist–disaffection as never before….[C]hurches formed national welfare councils to advise and better coordinate charitable missions as well as advocate for certain kinds of government intervention, such as workplace safety rules….[But] it was increasingly acknowledged that the forces of industrial capitalism had far outstripped not simply the churches’ capacity for charitable assistance, but the capacity of charity itself, as a model of welfare, to give sufficient protection to the amassing workers and families of urban-industrial America.

    The modern state, on this reading, is simply a historical fact, perhaps a byproduct of the industrial revolution as well as many other things. But the modern liberal welfare state, by contrast, was, perhaps, at least in part a function of churches and the faithful who made their homes within those modern states attempt to bring it around towards certain compassionate, communitarian ends. The liberal egalitarian/redistributive project is not the whole story of the welfare state, and perhaps not even the most important one.

    All of which would suggest that Daly is not primarily a localist; rather, he is an advocate of social pluralism, which treats the state, along with smaller localities, as one of the players. The communitarian virtues he seeks to see exemplified through Christian actions to care for the poor should definitely not be concentrated all in one set of hands…but he does not seem to believe (again, on my reading) that the state cannot legitimate be one of those several hands. Including it in the subsidiarian game should not–at least along the historical lines which Daly presents it, which are of course disputable–necessarily be taken as supporting the idea that it will always and forever be the biggest “community” on in the game.

    Or perhaps this is all not so much an argument over ideas, but over strategy? That Daly’s praise of faith-based initiatives makes perfect sense, but we are presently at the wrong historical moment to grant the state any creditable role whatsoever?

  13. R.A.

    First, thank you for you continually thoughtful responses. I don’t have much time now to respond now. I will only say that you have hit an important point about the proper role of the state in a “subsidiarian game.” I will try to address this if I get time later.

  14. My dear friends: This is a very interesting discussion to me and I have every intention of responding. However, I am serving jury duty now and am away from my desk for what will probably be several days.

    Before responding more fully when I am able, let me say this about the church-state question, very briefly. As a matter of contrast with welfarist Europe, America’s so-called “religious exceptionalism” is a problematic idea. Although less so in terms of churchgoing, America is undoubtedly exceptional in its levels of adherence to religious beliefs and devotional activities. But strong religiosity is largely a low-income phenomenon. In the U.S., much higher poverty and near-poverty rates thereby increase our religious exceptionalism compared to other wealthy nations. America’s religious exceptionalism has quite a lot do with our socio-economic exceptionalism, I would argue.

  15. Since Lew is currently unable to respond I will limit my comment to what I mentioned above.

    R.A.

    After again re-reading Lew’s original post, I think you are probably correct in that this is mainly a debate over strategy to restore associative institutions, specifically confessional institutions for my purposes, to their proper role. I would argue, as you pointed out in your last line, that the modern reality of the Central State (specifically in the United States) is simply incapable of adequately addressing the concerns that Lew seeks to remedy without necessarily destroying the intermediate associations that it seeks to “help.” I agree with a subsidiarity that acknowledges a role for the state. Such ideas as outlined in Catholic social teaching recognize that the level of government that should govern is that which is appropriate to the problem. I simply don’t see, even with the challenges that are presented with the reality of the Central State/Global Corporatism, how one could conceive of Faith Based Initiatives brought about the Central State as being the proper avenue to address the welfare needs of a people.

    I would not deny that churches and other groups who saw the rise of the modern state thought that the best way to challenge such problems that arose with such a reality was to use the central state to achieve more communitarian ends. However, over 100 years of continued destruction of those intermediary institutions that Daly seeks to restore ought to stand as evidence that in doing so, those churches and other associative groups may have only been quickening their own demise.

  16. I think Kevin is completely correct. There is a role for the central state in society but it must be a measured and limited one, not in the libertarian meaning of course but limited nonetheless. When it comes to this topic it seems clear to me the centralised state is too dangerous to be trusted with a direct or commanding role but I do think it has some role to play in coordination.

  17. I think that RA Fox’s point about global institutions is crucial here: anyone who opposes the “authority monism” of the Westphalian state–whether traditionalist or, like myself, of a more liberatory-anarchist bent–needs to take seriously the problem of *securing* these plural structures, communities, localities, what-have-you against a potentially hostile environment that includes not just nation-states but also–as we’re learning lately–global finance.

    Daly’s book sounds very interesting. If I would make a suggestion, though, it would be this: we Americans should look to the European ideological parties not just for their founding-to-postwar-settlement lessons, but for ideas about precisely how to think creatively about *institutional design* within globalized neoliberalism. The last 30 years have seen a truly remarkable–really unprecedented–political experiment under way, the EU. You can see this merely as statist triumph, if you want, but it’s not nearly that simple–one would have to, at the very least, acknowledge the struggles & strategies of the pro-pluralism forces, which go far beyond just ‘saying no to Europe.’ Think about the great *expansion* of regional autonomy in, e.g., Catalonia, Tirol, Scotland, even France to some extent.

    This is where I’ve staked my claim, anyway–and I really think it will prove a rich seam of insights, possibilities, and warnings. Even you benighted conservatives are welcome to join me!

  18. Thanks for the comment, Trapnel.

    [W]e Americans should look to the European ideological parties not just for their founding-to-postwar-settlement lessons, but for ideas about precisely how to think creatively about *institutional design* within globalized neoliberalism. The last 30 years have seen a truly remarkable–really unprecedented–political experiment under way, the EU. You can see this merely as statist triumph, if you want, but it’s not nearly that simple–one would have to, at the very least, acknowledge the struggles & strategies of the pro-pluralism forces, which go far beyond just ’saying no to Europe.’ Think about the great *expansion* of regional autonomy in, e.g., Catalonia, Tirol, Scotland, even France to some extent.

    This is something I’ve wondered about a great deal, done some reading on, and have wished I had the time and expertise to work through it all carefully. It seems to me that the EU is, as yet, still an undefined political entity. Is it simply a continent-wide United Nation-plus, a powerful, undemocratic bureaucracy struggling with recalcitrant sovereign states? Or is it signaling the emergence of a single sovereign European consciousness, to be essentially embodied in a centralized United States of Europe, complete with a constitution, flag, etc.? Or is it, just maybe, something both more and less: a kind of “new medievalism” with a (secular) Holy Roman Empire operating out of Brussels, coordinating between multiple local, regional, and state sovereignties? There is evidence for all three interpretations, and probably more. The Europeans themselves appear to be very divided not only in their opinions about the EU, but what exactly it is they have opinions about! You’re certainly correct though that, at the least, those American voices which look at the EU and say “all states are the same, and a single EU state would be too damn big,” while they may be correct in their opinions, are almost certainly reading the situation much too simplistically.

  19. X.Trapnel and Russell as an Englishmen I can asure the EU is no positive for pluralism or traditionalism. It is a near-despotic organisation completley undemocratic and unaccountable by necessity and goes further than even that with such actions as the EU constitution/Lisbon treaty farce. Its use of the term subsidiarity is joke, it is an enemy of decentralism and national sovereignty, aided by corrupt elites in the individual states(as they are still caused.) and it is rightly despised by most Brits. The EU is not something prochers should admire but instead despise.

    Btw Russell Europeans are not a nation to be divided but distinct nations with different views.

    Personally I think Britian would be better if it joined the US another state than remain part of the despotic institution known as the EU against its will even though I do think the US is too large and centralised as well.

  20. Wessexman, I appreciate your comment. Clearly, you would know about the EU than I; besides not living under it, I haven’t even made a real study of it. I have read enough to know that you’re absolutely not alone in thinking the way you do about the EU…however, I also know that there are more than a few voices that would disagree.

    Europeans are not a nation to be divided but distinct nations with different views.

    Very true. But then, of course, you have those nagging questions about just what a “nation” consists of. Is Scotland British? Is Wales? Those are not, I think, causally dismissable questions. You have the spread of English throughout western Europe, a shared secularism, and arguably a shared attitude towards both foreign and domestic. Thinkers such as Habermas have written provocatively about the development of common kind of European “patriotism.” Of course, you can disagree with or dismiss his arguments, but it’s not as though what he is observing is a complete figment of his imagination. The nations of Europe today are not what they once were. If the EU (and, perhaps, before that the Common Market) is responsible for those changes, that would be one thing. But if those changes have emerged for a multitude of reasons related to broader, global cultural and economic transformations, then perhaps Trapnel may have point, in that the EU might arguably be a provider of regional autonomy which otherwise would have disappeared entirely.

    Perhaps, to return to the original question posed by this post, it’s a matter of strategy. Given the existence of certain goals which makes certain forms of political organization extremely difficult to avoid, is it worth using those forms in the meantime to promote some degree of pluralism? Or would that only make the matter worse?

  21. I think you have to differentiate between different nations within the EU and their thoughts. Britain is very Eurosceptic. Denmark is supposed to be reasonably Eurosceptic as far as I know(though I’m no expert.) and I believe Sweden is lukewarm(though again I’m no expert.). Except for these however most of the other EU nations tend to have various levels of Europhilism but I don’t think any of them has more than a small amount of people who consider themselves EU nationals in a proper sense.

    To put it bluntly I don’t particularly care what the French or Germans or Poles think of themselves, my only concern is Brits think and they certainly do not, overwhelmingly, consider themselves as part of any EU nation even one that coexists with the British or English nation.

    I’d be extremely sceptical of the EU’s support for regionalism. I don’t quite go in for the extreme of some British conservatives who think the EU pursues regionalism as a definite conspiracy to undermine its nations although I do think there is a ghost of such ideas in the background. But more importantly though it may have some support for minorities like the Bretons or Catalans the EU just doesn’t really support proper decentralism or regionalism, in fact it tends to favour centralism and uniformity over real subsidiarity and localism. One only has to look at its(and its sister agency the ECHR.) championing of Roman law/Napoleonic code and social democratic ideals over common law and historical British ones. I don’t think this is changable even if we went back to basics. It is just too large and unaccountable and ruling over too many different peoples.

    To be honest as I say I don’t care what the French or Dutch or whoever do, whether they start a nightmare superstate or not but like most Brits I don’t want my nation dragged further into the maelstrom. The treacherous pro-EU policies of our British elites of the past 40 years, except partially for Thatcher, is a national disgrace that would make Pitt, Disraeli or Churchill turn in their graves to see such scoundrels sit in their place.

    It is funny you mention the Scots. Now I’m a British regionalist and decentralist, as supportive of Scots, Welsh and Cornish devolution as I am more power for the English historical regions, like my Wessex or Westcountry, and counties like my Dorset. However it is worth pointing out that the Scots, Welsh and Cornish nationalist movements have tended to foolishly throw in their hats with the EU and aim for “independence” within the EU, an “independence” where they fiscally rely on the EU, where they are under the thumb of the central EU gov’t and have little in the way of real national self-sufficiency.

    No I think I prefer joining the US, even with its current centralisation, as a new state to much further EU integration for my nation.

  22. Btw as a traditionalist Tory and a high church Anglican I get you can guess what I think of French or German secularism. Also I don’t think it is quite true we Brits share the same domestic or foreign policies as the Frenchies or whoever. We tend to sit in the middle of the yanks and the continentals and although I’m a distributist rather than a capitalist and I’m a traditionalist I still think I personally prefer the US’ domestic agenda to say the general continental one and certainly the EU’s as a body.

  23. Russell the Wiki article on pretty well describes the differenes between EU nations.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euroscepticism#cite_note-Eurobarometer_71-2

    “A survey in 2009[update] showed that within the European Union overall, the majority of EU citizens support their country’s membership: over 50% think their country’s membership is a good thing, and only 15 % think it is a bad thing.[3]:91-93[4]:QA6a Attitudes vary greatly between countries. Support is greatest in Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Ireland, with about 70%–80% thinking that membership is a good thing.[3]:91-93 Scepticism is highest in Latvia, the United Kingdom, and Hungary, with only 25%–32% viewing membership as a good thing.[3]:91-93 In Britain, opinions are divided, fairly evenly, between those who think that membership is a good thing, a bad thing, or neither good nor bad.[3]:91-93

    The majority of citizens (56%) believe that membership of the EU has benefited their country, though a significant minority (31%) believe that their country has not benefited.[3]:95-96[4]:QA7a Belief that the citizen’s country has benefited from EU membership is lowest (below 50%) in the UK, Hungary, Latvia, Italy, Austria, Sweden and Bulgaria.[3]:95-96

    About 48 percent of EU citizens tend to trust the European Parliament, and about 36 percent do not tend to trust it.[3]:110-112[4]:QA 13.1 Trust is highest in Slovakia, Belgium, Malta, Denmark, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Luxembourg; it is lowest in the UK (22%) and Latvia (40%).[3]:110-112 Trust in the European Commission and the ECB is slightly lower.[3]:114-117[4]: QA 13.2

    A positive to neutral image of the EU dominates, with about 46% of citizens having a positive image and only 16% having a negative image; about 36% have a neutral image.[3]:130-133[4]: QA 10”

    As can be seen discontent with the EU is time and again led by us Brits and as an Englishmen and in no way obligated by any shared nationality with Europe I reiterate I only care about what Brits think. So you may well be right that most Europeans have warm feelings towards the EU but Brits tend not to and I feel I don’t have to give the feelings of Luxembourgers or Austrians or whoever one iota importance when thinking of the future of Britain and its relationship with the despotism in Brussels and Strasbourg.

  24. Wessexman,

    Thanks very much for your comments and the information you’ve provided, and my apologies for not having been able to keep up the discussion. Your comments open up all sorts of avenues for debate; I’ll just pick on one, because I think it relates to the broader theme of Daly’s book and this whole topic–namely, the role in which centralized governments can or cannot play in making possible pluralist/localist pursuits of common goals. You write:

    It is funny you mention the Scots. Now I’m a British regionalist and decentralist, as supportive of Scots, Welsh and Cornish devolution as I am more power for the English historical regions, like my Wessex or Westcountry, and counties like my Dorset. However it is worth pointing out that the Scots, Welsh and Cornish nationalist movements have tended to foolishly throw in their hats with the EU and aim for “independence” within the EU, an “independence” where they fiscally rely on the EU, where they are under the thumb of the central EU gov’t and have little in the way of real national self-sufficiency.

    Now, you’ve mentioned a couple of times is that you “only care about what Brits think.” But given the apparently support Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall have apparently shown for the EU, does that mean you don’t fully consider them “Brits”? I don’t mean that as an attack, but as a sincere question: in essence, are you speaking as a Brit, or an Englishman? Either way, the question runs up against the complicated historical facts of national belonging, and who properly should have what kind of sovereignty over who.

    Now, it would be perfectly fair, of course, to argue that you don’t consider the Scots, Welsh, and Cornish separatist/nationalist movements to be at all representative of what the people who live in those places actually want. And you may be right! Maybe that leadership is a bunch of self-interested ramble-rousers–or, conversely, perhaps they have good democratic intentions, but have been misled by false or manipulative promises from EU bureaucrats. Again, you would certainly be able to answer that question better than I. But it seems to me that, assuming you grant the question, you also have to consider it from the other perspective as well. Might it not be the case that, after centuries of frequently antagonistic experience with London, that Scotland, Wales, and Cornwall are not confident of their ability to be able to politically and economically develop themselves within an England-dominated Great Britain, and so look elsewhere for support? The analogy is pretty thin, but I’ll use it anyway: when the children and grandchildren of former slaves in the American South struggled to find political, economic, and cultural security, they knew they could not rely upon the Southern state governments: they fought their battles for civil rights (and sought poverty relief) on a national scale, because the local conditions had never shown either the ability or the willingness to respond to their needs. Maybe it’s completely wrong to imagine the EU playing a similar role; once again, I really don’t know. But it’s at least possible, isn’t it?

  25. Certainly I consider them Brits. The word Brit would have little meaning if I did not as there would just be England left. I neither think the nationalist movements are rabble-rousers nor necessarily representative of their people when it comes to this question. It is hard to really know but I’d say the Scots are more europhile than the rest of us Brits but still a lot less so than many contintentals, I have no idea about Wales but I’d say the Cornish nationalist movement are very much out of sync with Cornishmen in general seeing as the Tories and UKIP(the specifically anti-EU party.) got among the top votes in the last EU election there. The Cornish party, Mebyon Kernow which doesn’t do very well in elections, is also quite left of centre and socially progressive which is a position I consider quite divisive in a Cornwall which places the Tories and UKIP, along with the lib dems, as its favourite political parties which shows a certain out of touch attitude, although the Welsh and Scottish parties, though too divisive again for my liking(both taking definite left of centre stances.) are at least a lot closer to a large amount of their national’s views.

    To me its just pointless though. Why campaign so hard for your regional or national autonomy and then seek to rely on an either bigger entity which has little respect for actual decentralism or subsidiarity? An organisation that even beyond its deliberate authoritarian behaviour must be unaccountable and centralised by its very size and scope.

    Anyway I’m an old-fashioned regionalist and decentralist, I believe if your going to campaign for more independence and autonomy then you should be prepared to fund and take care of more of your own public business. Many of these “Celtic” nationalist movements seem to want to throw themselves on the EU’s(which means the member states’ of course.) funds, I’ve even met Cornish nats who thought nothing of declaring the EU nations’ duty to fund their autonomy. I find this not only presumptious if not pernicious but as a very dubious basis for proper autonomy; he who holds the purse does indeed hold a lot of power.

    It is interesting you talk about England-dominated Britain. The other nations have done pretty well out of Britain and most of their subjects do not want independence as yet. Some might say it is not England being dominated at the moment, the Scottish mafia is often spoken of by English nationalists; Blair, Brown, Cameron, Campbell and so on. I don’t put too much stock in it myself but it is interesting. A lot of the tension comees from historically dubious, braveheart-esque depictions of England as simply the evil oppressor and Englishmen reacting to this by getting annoyed at our “Celtic” brothers.

  26. There is good reason for the Brits to be devolution minded. For a long time they were the Malfunction Junction of Europe. Water before the advent of tarmac roads acted as the interstates (motorways) of choice with journeying through forested land being a slow progress option. Britain being the land of Gulf Stream rain and therefore many rivers was highly prone to easy invasion from mainland Europe. Naturally resentment at being repeatedly subjugated would become somewhat of a cultural embedment and rebellion somewhat of a natural disposition. It is no accident that Phillip Blond is a Brit and spear-heading the coming world-wide charge against capitalist monopolists and the puppet governments they have set up. Most Brits like most Americans don’t yet realize they have had their balls cut off by this neutering duopoly of the plutocracy which is one prime reason why they blame governments of any description for their plight. Governments, of course, be they central, or local, are the vehicles that help maintain our human ambivalence between wanting to dominate and resenting being dominated and allow in theory the existence of mutually acceptable hierarchy. The commodification of nature (animal domestication, crop rearing and the invention of credit and money) upset the ambivalence balancing hunter gatherer governance system, allowing the rise of the narcissistic and sociopathic free-riders we now know as the plutocracy, or oligarchy. Here is Christopher Boehm fleshing out part of this argument a little further:-

    http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/greatergood/2007winter/Boehm.html

  27. Don’t have much to say about this whole article just yet, but I’m old enough to know that Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is not a new option. But in Eisenhower’s era, it was Moralistic Stoic Deism, and it was the religion whose God was put in the Pledge of Allegiance and on our coins. And it is thes religion whose God we would pray to if we had “prayer in public school” again – which is why as a Reformed Evangelical I have never been enthusiastic about “prayer in public schools.” Prayer for public schools, maybe.

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