Monday, December 18, 2017
The concepts of tradition, culture, and citizenship have this in common they are summoned to protect our political inheritance against the disintegrative forces to which it is now exposed. They are tenuous, fragile, subject to many interpretations, and bend or break when we place too much weight on them. But they are among the important assets we have, when it comes to opposing the view of society as simply a power struggle between groups, who have no other end than to gain the ascendancy over their rivals. That view of society, as a power struggle, whose aim is domination or the escape from it, has been an intellectual commonplace from Marx to Foucault and beyond. Its falsehood is best displayed by examining the three concepts that form the topic of this article.
Tradition: When we justify a practice as traditional, what are we doing and when are we justified? We should distinguish trivial from deep traditions. There are traditions like highland dress, the ceremony of lessons and carols', Christmas itself, which pretend to be immemorial, when in fact they were invented in recent memory. We could dispense with them and not lose a cornerstone of our social life; and they will be blown away without our really noticing the fact (not perhaps Christmas, but what is now displayed as Christmas). [Read More]
Culture: Three areas of human life compete for this label: common culture, high culture, and popular culture. All involve residues of social knowledge, but not all are equally valuable to us. Common culture consists of the customs, values, and traditions that define a community and hold it together as a we'. High culture is the self-conscious and reflective part of the common culture: the philosophy, historical narrative, and art that form the mirror in which the community polishes its face. High culture is taught, common culture acquired. By far the most significant part of common culture is the inherited religion; but in the modern world there are communities emerging without that foundation, struggling to define themselves with no reference to the divine. It is an open question whether they can succeed in this. [Read More]
Citizenship: By citizenship I mean a specific form of communal life, which is active, not passive, towards the business of government. The citizen participates in government and does not just submit to it. Although citizens recognize natural law as a moral limit, they accept that they make laws for themselves. They are not just subjects: they appoint the sovereign power and are in a sense parts of that sovereign power, bound to it by a quasi-contract which is also an existential tie. The arrangement is not necessarily democratic, but is rather founded on a relation of mutual accountability.[Read More]
Admin's note: Participants in this discussion must follow the site's moderation policy. Profanity will be filtered. Abusive conduct is not allowed.