Milbank on Democracy

A thought provoking piece here by John Milbank on the potential dangers of liberal democracy in our time.

A quote:

Thus increasingly, liberal politics revolves around supposedly guarding against alien elements: the terrorist, the refugee, the person of another race, the foreigner, the criminal, and so on. Populism seems more and more to be an inevitable drift of unqualified liberal democracy.

Consequently, the purported defence of liberal democracy itself is often used in order to justify the suspension of democratic decision-making and civil liberties. And so, somewhat paradoxically, it is liberalism that tends to suspend those values of liberality – fair trial, right to a defence, assumed innocence, habeas corpus, a measure of free speech and free enquiry, good treatment of the convicted – which it has taken over, but which as a matter of historical record it did not invent.

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2 Responses to Milbank on Democracy

  1. Burk Braun says:

    Isn't it a little ironic that someone plumping for cultural and political domination by Rome would complain about small infringements on freedom? Well, it is to me.

    One has to remember that there is a war on. We may all be shopping, but we are also collectively and rightly concerned that our freedoms are being abused as well as undermined by another medieval theism- that of politicized, militant, Islam.

    I'm no fan of the police and security state. But we have an operational democratic system that is continually weighing the issues of freedom vs security. We in the US still have vast amounts of freedom, as it happens. There can be no doubt that we face threats from the alien, as Milbank says. We face other threats, mostly cultural and economic, from excess immigration.

    I have not heard of habeas corpus being suspended summarily for all and sundry, only for those who otherwise would have been shot on the battlefield. I am divided about the issue, but intrinsically, POW's don't get the same measure of free speech, fair trial, etc. rights as peaceful (or rowdy) citizens do. It seems an important distinction.

    And “tyranny”!?! This in a country whose politicians just staged an unprecedented fest of fawning to the electorate, including US-style debates. The capitalist system has its problems, (I hope to blog on that next week), but calling it tyranny is a bit purple. Unjust, unfair, inequitable, even a bit feudal? Yes. Tyrannical? Not yet. Not while the state takes its direction from its constituents.

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  2. Darrell says:

    Hi Burk,

    “Isn't it a little ironic that someone plumping for cultural and political domination by Rome would complain about small infringements on freedom? Well, it is to me.”

    Given that modern secular states have been and are the worse abusers of human rights in at least modern times, if not a huge chunk of recorded history, no, I don’t see any irony at all. Historically, the Church has acted and been a voice for those whom the state has tended to forget or run over or has the 20th Century escape you?

    “One has to remember that there is a war on…”

    Wow, that line could have been lifted directly from one of Bush’s speeches.

    “There can be no doubt that we face threats from the alien, as Milbank says.”

    He does not say we face threats from the alien. He says we face a potential and possibly greater threat from the state as they use the “alien” for propaganda purposes so that we continue to feel threatened by the “alien” the other, the stranger.

    As far as I can tell, he is right on all counts.

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