Around the Web this Week

Some law and religion news from around the web this week:

“Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism” (Bentlage et al, eds.)

In October, Brill Publishers will release “Religious Dynamics under the Impact of Imperialism and Colonialism,” edited by Bjorn Bentlage (Martin-Luther University), Marion Eggert (Ruhr University Bochum), Hans Martin Krämer (Heidelberg University), and Stefan Reichmuth (Ruhr University Bochum). The publisher’s description follows:

This sourcebook offers rare insights into a formative period in the modern history of religions. TBrill_logohroughout the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, when commercial, political and cultural contacts intensified worldwide, politics and religions became ever more entangled. This volume offers a wide range of translated source texts from all over Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, thereby diminishing the difficulty of having to handle the plurality of involved languages and backgrounds. The ways in which the original authors, some prominent and others little known, thought about their own religion, its place in the world and its relation to other religions, allows for much needed insight into the shared and analogous challenges of an age dominated by imperialism and colonialism.

“What Ifs of Jewish History” (Rosenfeld, ed.)

In October, Cambridge University Press will release “What Ifs of Jewish History: From Abraham to Zionism,” edited by Gavriel D. Rosenfeld (Fairfield University). The publisher’s description follows:

What ifs of jewish historyWhat if the Exodus had never happened? What if the Jews of Spain had not been expelled in 1492? What if Eastern European Jews had never been confined to the Russian Pale of Settlement? What if Adolf Hitler had been assassinated in 1939? What if a Jewish state had been established in Uganda instead of Palestine? Gavriel D. Rosenfeld’s pioneering anthology examines how these and other counterfactual questions would have affected the course of Jewish history. Featuring essays by sixteen distinguished scholars in the field of Jewish Studies, What Ifs of Jewish History is the first volume to systematically apply counterfactual reasoning to the Jewish past. Written in a variety of narrative styles, ranging from the analytical to the literary, the essays cover three thousand years of dramatic events and invite readers to indulge their imaginations and explore how the course of Jewish history might have been different.

 

Law and Tradition in America: My Reply

I have a reply to the essays of Professors Bernstein, Levinson, and Stoner up at the Liberty Tradition ProjectFund blog. It is the last in this series, and I’ve enjoyed it very much. Here is a portion from the middle, responding to some of Professor Levinson’s challenging remarks:

It is a somewhat different thing to reply to Professor Levinson, who has earned more attention in this reply by being considerably less sympathetic than my other interlocutors to the value of exploring the relationship of tradition in law. He makes three primary points: 1) My essay was pitched at a sufficiently abstract level so as to be criticized with the aphorism that we are all traditionalists in America so long as we are essentially liberal Progressives (or libertarians). 2) American Founders such as the authors of the Federalist Papers were revolutionaries, not traditionalists, so that the predominant American political-legal tradition is liberal Progressivism, if not radicalism. 3) To the extent a non-liberal-Progressive traditionalism has been part of American intellectual history, it has been responsible for terrible things—slavery most prominent among them—that have rightly been abandoned.

As to the first point, it is difficult to think of anybody (not even Professor Levinson’s traditionalist incarnation, Edmund Burke, would qualify) who holds that a positive view of tradition implies or requires stasis or the total absence of change. Even for those, like Burke, well-disposed to adhere to past patterns of behavior, it is necessary to devise new ones if only because the situations to which those traditional patterns must be applied are different than those that preceded them—“confirming the wisdom of what remains,” as Professor Stoner has it. At any rate, though the relationship between tradition and social change is complex, at least this much may be said: It is not a one-sided affair. It is not all tradition and no change or progress. Otherwise, we would all be liberal Progressives.

Perhaps the differences between Professor Levinson and me are therefore more matters of mood, disposition, or emphasis. He lights up at those moments in American culture and history in which people exercise their freedom to “denounce” the inheritance of the past. It is probably fair to say that I find such moments less electrifying, though I agree with Professor Levinson that they do exist.

I offer the Madison of the National Bank controversy. He counters with the Madison of Federalist 14 (though I might observe that a “decent regard to the opinions of former times” is not the same as an indecent contempt for them).

I could parry with language in Federalist 15 (“experience” as “the best oracle of wisdom”) or the very final Federalist 85 (“No human genius, however comprehensive, is able by the mere dint of reason and reflection to effect it. The judgements of many must unite in the work.”). Or even Federalist 2, in which John Jay notes with some pride that “Providence” has seen fit to give the country to a people “very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long ad bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.”

Doubtless Professor Levinson would have a riposte at the ready, and so it would go on. He characterizes these as internal “contradictions” within The Federalist but they may simply be different features of the moral and political experience of these three authors, each representing its own portion of wisdom. Many of them do not vindicate liberal Progressivism in the least.

In fact, it severely distorts the American Founding to call it either committed to a liberal Progressive ideological program or rabidly radical. True, there were elements of the Old World that were cast off by the new nation, but as historians from Forrest McDonald to Eric Nelson have (in their own ways) shown, the temper of the American Founders may have been even more traditionalist than their English progenitors. Early Americans were the inheritors of an English constitutional traditionalism that was centuries old. Their revolution was motivated by the Crown’s denial of what they perceived as their traditional, ancient rights as Englishmen, rather than by the desire to denounce and exchange those rights for something altogether and radically different. What they desired for themselves was what they already knew well as the tradition of self-government in liberty.

The English Bill of Rights was a model for ours, just as the Act of Union was a model for our federalism. As Greg Weiner has put it in his fine recent essay for Law and Liberty, “Of course, the colonists were deeply affected by the ideas of the Enlightenment, as they were by the ideas of antiquity (far more essentially a staple of their curricula).” Tradition and change were at least equally parts of their political and intellectual constitution. As they should be (but regrettably are not) of ours.

Liow, “Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia”

This month, the Cambridge University Press releases “Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia,” by Joseph Liow (Nanyang Technological University).  The publisher’s description follows:

Religion and nationalism are two of the most potent and enduring forces that have shaped the modern world. Yet, there has been little systematic study of how these two9781107167728 forces have interacted to provide powerful impetus for mobilization in Southeast Asia, a region where religious identities are as strong as nationalist impulses. At the heart of many religious conflicts in Southeast Asia lies competing conceptions of nation and nationhood, identity and belonging, and loyalty and legitimacy. In this accessible and timely study, Joseph Liow examines the ways in which religious identity nourishes collective consciousness of a people who see themselves as a nation, perhaps even as a constituent part of a nation, but anchored in shared faith. Drawing on case studies from across the region, Liow argues that this serves both as a vital element of identity and a means through which issues of rights and legitimacy are understood.

Dauber, “State and Commonwealth”

This month, the Princeton University Press will release “State and Commonwealth: The Theory of the State in Early Modern England, 1549–1640,” by Noah Dauber (Colgate University).  The publisher’s description follows:

In the history of political thought, the emergence of the modern state in early modern England has usually been treated as the development of an increasingly centralizing k10754and expansive national sovereignty. Recent work in political and social history, however, has shown that the state—at court, in the provinces, and in the parishes—depended on the authority of local magnates and the participation of what has been referred to as “the middling sort.” This poses challenges to scholars seeking to describe how the state was understood by contemporaries of the period in light of the great classical and religious textual traditions of political thought.

State and Commonwealth presents a new theory of state and society by expanding on the usual treatment of “commonwealth” in pre–Civil War English history. Drawing on works of theology, moral philosophy, and political theory—including Martin Bucer’s De Regno Christi, Thomas Smith’s De Republica Anglorum, John Case’s Sphaera Civitatis, Francis Bacon’s essays, and Thomas Hobbes’s early works—Noah Dauber argues that the commonwealth ideal was less traditional than often thought. He shows how it incorporated new ideas about self-interest and new models of social order and stratification, and how the associated ideal of distributive justice pertained as much to the honors and offices of the state as to material wealth.

Broad-ranging in scope, State and Commonwealth provides a more complete picture of the relationship between political and social theory in early modern England.

Sheldon, “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics”

In October, the Manchester University Press will release “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics: Palestine-Israel in British universities,” by Ruth Sheldon (University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

For over four decades, events in Palestine-Israel have provoked raging conflicts within British universities around issues of free speech, ‘extremism’, antisemitism and 9781784993146Islamophobia. But why is this conflict so significant for student activists living at such a geographical distance from the region itself? And what role do emotive, polarised communications around Palestine-Israel play in the life of British academic institutions committed to the ideal of free expression?

This book draws on original ethnographic research with student activists on different sides of this conflict to initiate a conversation with students, academics and members of the public who are concerned with the transnational politics of Palestine-Israel and with the changing role of the public university. It shows how, in an increasingly globalised world that is shaped by entangled histories of European antisemitism and colonial violence, ethnography can open up ethical responses to questions of justice

Fried, “Charlemagne”

In October, the Harvard University Press will release “Charlemagne,” by Johannes Fried (University of Frankfurt). The publisher’s description follows:

When Charlemagne died in 814 CE, he left behind a dominion and a legacy unlike anything seen in Western Europe since the fall of Rome. Distinguished historian and 9780674737396-lgauthor of The Middle Ages Johannes Fried presents a new biographical study of the legendary Frankish king and emperor, illuminating the life and reign of a ruler who shaped Europe’s destiny in ways few figures, before or since, have equaled.

Living in an age of faith, Charlemagne was above all a Christian king, Fried says. He made his court in Aix-la-Chapelle the center of a religious and intellectual renaissance, enlisting the Anglo-Saxon scholar Alcuin of York to be his personal tutor, and insisting that monks be literate and versed in rhetoric and logic. He erected a magnificent cathedral in his capital, decorating it lavishly while also dutifully attending Mass every morning and evening. And to an extent greater than any ruler before him, Charlemagne enhanced the papacy’s influence, becoming the first king to enact the legal principle that the pope was beyond the reach of temporal justice—a decision with fateful consequences for European politics for centuries afterward.

Though devout, Charlemagne was not saintly. He was a warrior-king, intimately familiar with violence and bloodshed. And he enjoyed worldly pleasures, including physical love. Though there are aspects of his personality we can never know with certainty, Fried paints a compelling portrait of a ruler, a time, and a kingdom that deepens our understanding of the man often called “the father of Europe.”

Symposium: Religious Freedom Today (New York, September 16)

The Center for Law and Religion is pleased to co-sponsor a symposium on Professor Nelson Tebbe’s forthcoming book, Religious Freedom in an Egalitarian Age, here at St. John’s Law School next month. The symposium is also sponsored by the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development and the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights. In addition to the author, participants include Carlos Ball (Rutgers-Newark), Alan Brownstein (UC-Davis), Chad Flanders (St. Louis), Andrew Koppelman (Northwestern), and Patricia Marino (Waterloo). For more information, please click here.

 

Book Event: “Getting Religion” (Chicago, Sept. 27)

The Lumen Christi Institute has announced a reception for and discussion of Kenneth Woodward’s newly released book, “Getting Religion: Faith, Culture, & Politics from the Age of Eisenhower to the Era of Obama,” to take place on September 27th, at the University Club of Chicago.  More information follows below:

Impeccably researched, thought-challenging and leavened by wit, Getting Religion (Convergent Books), the highly-anticipated new book from Kenneth L. Woodward, is 9781101907399perfect for readers looking to understand how religion came to be a contentious element in 21st century public life.

Here the award-winning author blends memoir (especially of the postwar era) with copious reporting and shrewd historical analysis to tell the story of how American religion, culture and politics influenced each other in the second half of the 20th century. For readers interested in how religion, economics, family life and politics influence each other, Woodward introduces a fresh vocabulary of terms such as “embedded religion,” “movement religion” and “entrepreneurial religion” to illuminate the interweaving of the secular and sacred in American public life.

This is one of those rare books that changes the way Americans think about belief, behavior and belonging.

Find out more about the event here.

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