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one Christianity, Civil Society, and Pluralism the question of the relationship between the polity and what are now called the institutions of “civil society” has recurred in the Western tradition at different historical junctures under widely varying circumstances, as the character and claims of diverse social and political institutions evolved—at times imperceptibly, at times convulsively.1 Aristotle’s questioning of the Platonic prioritizing of unity over diversity within a self-sufficient Athenian political community was perhaps the earliest philosophical confrontation with the problem. As classical civilization unraveled, the appearance of a historically unprecedented institution asserting a transpolitical, transcendent origin and­ authorization—the church—decisively redefined the problem as one of the relationship between two independently constituted and mutually limiting communities. The “doctrine of the two,” as O’Donovan limpidly styles this revolutionary innovation, irrevocably recast the terms of the question.2 The ramifications of this radical relativization of the domain of the political over against the realm of the spiritual, and as a consequence over against the zones of personal and associational liberty secured in principle by that realm, were felt throughout Western society and politics not only during the Christendom era but also well beyond it. Notwithstanding the effect of other currents moving in opposite directions—­ notably absolutist doctrines of sovereignty—early modern political institutions can be seen as partial consolidations of the notion that only an arrangement of plural, reciprocally accountable authorities could honor 5 6 h e r m a n d o o y e w e e r d the conviction that absolute sovereignty belonged exclusively to God. Reformation political thought substantially advanced this consolidation.3 To a significant degree, this was achieved merely by drawing out bolder constitutional conclusions from ideas and practices of law, consent, and corporate representation generated within medieval Catholicism.4 Yet the Reformation also contributed insights of its own, appealing—in time—from a conviction of both the freedom of individual conscience and the spiritual equality of all “vocations” to the principle of the political equality of all, including rulers, under the rule of a system of law impregnated with divine justice and equity.5 Reformed impulses also contributed to the emergence, already under way, of the multiple differentiated institutions of modernity—notably state, church, business corporation, university, family, and voluntary­ association—each claiming autonomy within its own proper sphere. This process, together with the stretching of the bounds of personal liberty­ accompanying it, again fundamentally and irreversibly reconfigured the problem. No longer could social and political plurality be harmonized institutionally by a superior unifying ecclesial jurisdiction, or even, as Weber proposed, by a shared universe of moral norms. Each, it increasingly appeared, had to discern and follow its unique institutional requirements , making its own way in a world increasingly fashioned by the contending but ambiguously interdependent imperatives of centralizing nation-states and fragmenting commercial markets. These institutional requirements, many argued, did not fall within the purview of “theology” or even the sphere of “morality” as conventionally understood. But this argument flew in the face not only of Catholic but also of Reformed (especially Calvinist) injunctions regarding the sovereignty of God over the whole of social life, including the economic sphere, launching the stillunresolved debate over the contribution of the Reformation to the proc­ ess of “secularization.”6 In our own time, among the many processes now attendant on “globalization,” one is arguably a decisive—it is perhaps too early to say irreversible—rebalancing of institutional imperatives in favor of increasingly autonomous markets and against the independent capacities of both states and the institutions of civil society. The long-standing question of the just relationship between state and civil society, then, presses upon us again today, manifesting itself in the multilateral renegotiations Christianity, Civil Society, and Pluralism 7 now under way—often conflictual and increasingly violent—between states and the diverse institutions of civil society, between the contending institutions of civil society themselves, and between nation-states, each struggling to come to grips with the institutional turbulence surging up from below and cascading down from above. What resources might Christian political philosophy today have to assist in clarifying this perplexing and ever-shifting question? On the face of it, a tradition of political thought founded on the doctrine of the two, productive of copious theorizing on law and authority and transformed by Reformation and scholastic theories of institutional accountability , might be expected to yield resources capable of addressing it. And indeed it has. In order to provide a context...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780268076894
Related ISBN
9780268023058
MARC Record
OCLC
761233339
Pages
464
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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