August 11, 2009

who's in control?

The new issue of Stylus is out, which means I've got a few things currently in print: various reviews, an interview with Del Barber and a live review of Sunset Rubdown. And be sure not to miss an interview with The Other Brothers.

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What is going on in British politics? I don't pretend know, but I can't help being interested. After seeing mention of Radical Orthodoxy on Infinite Thought, I was led to a helpful (and timely) post at An Und Fur Sich, which led me to an article by Philip Blond in the Guardian (where he touts the new "progressive" conservatism, or "red Toryism," which purports to rescue the legacy of conservative Christian intellectuals like John Ruskin, Thomas Carlyle and G.K. Chesterton from the violent/embarrassing conservatism of Thatcherism). Those postmodern theologians sure have a thing for paradoxically titled movements. But I should mention that this pairing isn't a new idea, but has in fact been done to death. Canada too had (and our provincial government still has) a "Progressive Conservative" party, which finally relapsed and went back to being the Conservative party. Then again, that's just coincidence. Canadian politics is another matter entirely.

Eventually I landed up at the University of Nottingham's Centre for Theology and Philosophy, where the campaign seems to be in full swing. Even John Milbank has been showing his support, claiming that the vision of Radical Orthodoxy is taking hold, and public life is being reclaimed. This is "its entry upon the political stage." The idea, that we can avoid this political dichotomy between right and left, by returning to a premodern understanding of social life, where we'll bring about "a new radical communitarian ground against the liberalism of both left and right" sounds all too familiar and altogether simplistic. What John Milbank (who appears to be spending far too much time with Zizek) wants is another Christendom (but this time more fully global - which shouldn't be to hard thanks to the headway made by global capitalism) , and everyone else should too or else they've fallen into a series of necessary lapses: "modernity is liberalism, liberalism is capitalism...and capitalism is atheism and nihilism." That was quick wasn't it?

And then, to my astonishment, Milbank continues with this statement:
The “other religions” thing in the end won’t matter. The world as a whole is rapidly Christianizing, and even in Islamic countries like Bangladesh Muslims are finding their own specific and valuably Islamic way to Christ in notably increasing numbers. As Paul Claudel realised in Le Soulier de Satin, the meaning of globalisation is a shift to the primacy of the sea, la mer tout entière, and so figurally of baptism and personal relationship, however terrestrially sundered. The evil disasters of colonialism can only be redeemed when they are seen as perverse and yet providential ways to the further proclamation of Christian universalism.

Now, I have no problem believing this came from Milbank's mouth, and maybe I'm too conditioned by neoliberalism, but I find the arrogance and presumption of this statement troubling. The sort of authority Milbank is here touting seems Constantinian in all the wrong ways. I don't doubt Blond is far off. What a sorry mess this is going to be.

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