When Do International Mores Defeat Local Ones?

So many of the most prominent law and religion cases–Lautsi, Kokkinakis, Eweida, and on and on–represent conflicts between the views and mores of particular European and sometimes Asian states, on the one hand, and those of the international European community, on the other. Here is a new book that looks like it will discuss some of these issues: International Judicial Review: When Should International Courts Intervene? (Cambridge University Press), by Shai Dothan.

“This book is motivated by a question: when should international courts intervene in domestic affairs? To answer this question thoroughly, the book is broken down into a series of separate inquiries: when is intervention legitimate? When can international courts identify good legal solutions? When will intervention initiate useful processes? When will it lead to good outcomes? These inquiries are answered based on reviewing judgments of international courts, strategic analysis, and empirical findings. The book outlines under which conditions intervention by international courts is recommended and evaluates the implications that international courts have on society.”

Neoliberalism’s Theology

Here is a new book confronting the frequently pilloried term, “neoliberalism,” and offering an interesting theory about its underlying causes and ends: Neoliberalism and Political Theology: From Kant to Identity Politics (Oxford University Press), by Carl Raschke.

“Neoliberalism in recent years has become the operative buzzword among pundits and academics to characterise an increasingly dysfunctional global political economy. It is often–wrongly–identified exclusively with free market fundamentalism and illiberal types of cultural conservatism. Combining penetrating argument and broad-ranging scholarship, Carl Raschke shows what the term really means, how it evolved and why it has been so misunderstood.

Raschke lays out how the present new world disorder, signalled by the election of Trump and Brexit, derives less from the ascendancy of reactionary forces and more from the implosion of the post-Cold War effort to establish a progressive international moral and political order for the cynical benefit of a new cosmopolitan knowledge class, mimicking the so-called civilising mission of 19th-century European colonialists.”

How To Make Hard Decisions

It is some sign of law and religion’s salience today that Professor Peter Schuck of Yale Law School decided to include a conundrum of the field as one of his “Top 5” tough choices in his new book, One Nation Undecided: Clear Thinking About Five Hard Issues That Divide Us (Princeton University Press). The others are poverty, immigration, affirmative action, and campaign finance. All of the rest–concerning the certitude that “we’ve all” expressed views on these matters “without thinking them through”–well…I suppose Professor Schuck will tell us in the book just how he comes to that conclusion.

“We’ve all expressed opinions about difficult hot-button issues without thinking them through. With so much media spin, political polarization, and mistrust of institutions, it’s hard to know how to think about these tough challenges, much less what to do about them. One Nation Undecided takes on some of today’s thorniest issues and walks you through each one step-by-step, explaining what makes it so difficult to grapple with and enabling you to think smartly about it. In this unique what-to-do book, Peter Schuck tackles poverty, immigration, affirmative action, campaign finance, and religious objections to gay marriage and transgender rights. No other book provides such a comprehensive, balanced, and accessible analysis of these urgent social controversies. One Nation Undecided gives you the facts and competing values, makes your thinking about them more sophisticated, and encourages you to draw your own conclusions.

Sixsmith reviews Holland’s “Dominion”

Here’s something of a new feature for our book-related posts. On occasion, we’ll have an interesting review of a book that we have previously posted. I thought this review at the University Bookman by Ben Sixsmith of Tom Holland’s book, Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, was very worthwhile and gave a good account of the book’s themes, strengths, and weaknesses. A bit:

“Holland’s stylistic talents add a great deal to the book. His portraits of Boniface, Luther, and Calvin are vivid, evocative, and free of romanticization or its opposite. Some of his accounts of episodes in religious history are a little superficial—he could have read Helen Andrews for a more complicated portrait of Bartolomé de las Casas, for example—but a sweeping historical narrative without superficial aspects would be like an orchard with no bruising on the fruit. It is only natural.”

Islam and Human Rights

In my experience, the Western human-rights community overlooks, or downplays, human rights documents that come from non-Western sources. A good example is the Cairo Declaration, a statement of human rights announced by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in 1990: few human-rights courses in American law schools spend significant time on the Cairo Declaration, notwithstanding its importance in global human-rights debates. That may be because these non-Western sources offer a challenge to Western understandings of “universal” concepts like human dignity. But I’ve written about that subject elsewhere.

Here is a new collection about the OIC from Penn Press, The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Human Rights, edited by Marie Juul Petersen (Danish Institute of Human Rights) and Turan Kayaoglu (University of Washington – Tacoma). The publisher’s description follows:

Established in 1969, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is an intergovernmental organization the purpose of which is the strengthening of solidarity among Muslims. Headquartered in Jeddah, the OIC today consists of fifty seven states from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The OIC’s longevity and geographic reach, combined with its self-proclaimed role as the United Nations of the Muslim world, raise certain expectations as to its role in global human rights politics. However, to date, these hopes have been unfulfilled. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and Human Rights sets out to demonstrate the potential and shortcomings of the OIC and the obstacles on the paths it has navigated.

Historically, the OIC has had a complicated relationship with the international human rights regime. Palestinian self-determination was an important catalyst for the founding of the OIC, but the OIC did not develop a comprehensive human rights approach in its first decades. In fact, human rights issues were rarely, if at all, mentioned at the organization’s summits or annual conferences of foreign ministers. Instead, the OIC tended to focus on protecting Islamic holy sites and strengthening economic cooperation among member states. As other international and regional organizations expanded the international human rights system in the 1990s, the OIC began to pay greater attention to human rights, although not always in a manner that aligned with Western conceptions.

This volume provides essential empirical and theoretical insights into OIC practices, contemporary challenges to human rights, intergovernmental organizations, and global Islam. Essays by some of the world’s leading scholars examine the OIC’s human rights activities at different levels—in the UN, the organization’s own institutions, and at the member-state level—and assess different aspects of the OIC’s approach, identifying priority areas of involvement and underlying conceptions of human rights.

What’s Happening in Iran?

We tend to forget, in America, that sometimes anti-American governments really do have support from local populations. Here is a timely book from Stanford, Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic, which explores the worldview of those Iranians who support the Islamic regime. The author is Narges Bajoghli of Johns Hopkins University. Here is the description from the Stanford website:

An inside look at what it means to be pro-regime in Iran, and the debates around the future of the Islamic Republic.

More than half of Iran’s citizens were not alive at the time of the 1979 Revolution. Now entering its fifth decade in power, the Iranian regime faces the paradox of any successful revolution: how to transmit the commitments of its political project to the next generation. New media ventures supported by the Islamic Republic attempt to win the hearts and minds of younger Iranians. Yet members of this new generation—whether dissidents or fundamentalists—are increasingly skeptical of these efforts.

Iran Reframed offers unprecedented access to those who wield power in Iran as they debate and define the future of the Republic. Over ten years, Narges Bajoghli met with men in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, Ansar Hezbollah, and Basij paramilitary organizations to investigate how their media producers developed strategies to court Iranian youth. Readers come to know these men—what the regime means to them and their anxieties about the future of their revolutionary project. Contestation over how to define the regime underlies all their efforts to communicate with the public. This book offers a multilayered story about what it means to be pro-regime in the Islamic Republic, challenging everything we think we know about Iran and revolution.

A New Edition of a Classic Textbook

Next month, Eerdman’s will release a new edition of A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, a textbook by one of the greatest living historians of Christianity, Mark Noll (Notre Dame – Emeritus). Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

Mark Noll’s A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada has been firmly established as the standard text on the Christian experience in North America. Now Noll has thoroughly revised, updated, and expanded his classic text to incorporate new materials and important themes, events, leaders, and changes of the last thirty years. Once again readers will benefit from his insights on the United States and Canada in this superb narrative survey of Christian churches, institutions, and cultural engagements from the colonial period through 2018.

A New Introduction to Orthodoxy

A new book from Oxford looks interesting: Orthodox Christianity: A Very Short Introduction, by Edward Siecienski (Stockton University). The book seems to address only Eastern, as opposed to Oriental Orthodoxy, that is, the Chalcedonian churches that derive from the Byzantine experience (Greeks, Russians, and so on), rather than the Non-Chalcedonian churches (Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, and so on). Well, the title does say it’s a “short” introduction. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

To many in the West, Orthodoxy remains shrouded in mystery, an exotic and foreign religion that survived in the East following the Great Schism of 1054 that split the Christian world into two camps–Catholic and Orthodox. However, as the second largest Christian denomination, Orthodox Christianity is anything but foreign to the nearly 300 million worshippers who practice it. For them, Orthodoxy is a living, breathing reality; a way of being Christian ultimately rooted in the person of Jesus and the experience of the early Church. Whether they are Greek, Russian, or American, Orthodox Christians are united by a common tradition and faith that binds them together despite differences in culture. True, the road has not always been smooth — Orthodox history is littered with tales of schisms and divisions, of persecutions and martyrdom, from the Sack of Constantinople, capital of the Byzantine Empire and seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch, to the experience of the Russian Orthodox Church under the Soviet Union. Still, today Orthodoxy remains a vibrant part of the religious landscape, not only in those lands where it has made its historic home (Greece, Russia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe), but also increasingly in the West. Orthodox Christianity: A Very Short Introduction explores the enduring role of this religion, and the history, beliefs, and practices that have shaped it.

A New Biography of Metternich

Conventional wisdom portrays Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister who dominated Europe after the defeat of Napoleon, as an arch-reactionary. And that seems basically right. Metternich opposed liberal nationalism and was an architect of the Holy Alliance, which attempted to defeat Revolutionary ideas in Europe through Christian values, including the divine right of kings. A forthcoming biography from Harvard, Metternich: Strategist and Visionary, by Wolfram Siemann (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich) argues, though, that in fact Metternich was a progressive visionary. Readers can judge for themselves. Here’s the description from the Harvard website:

A compelling new biography that recasts the most important European statesman of the first half of the nineteenth century, famous for his alleged archconservatism, as a friend of realpolitik and reform, pursuing international peace.

Metternich has a reputation as the epitome of reactionary conservatism. Historians treat him as the archenemy of progress, a ruthless aristocrat who used his power as the dominant European statesman of the first half of the nineteenth century to stifle liberalism, suppress national independence, and oppose the dreams of social change that inspired the revolutionaries of 1848. Wolfram Siemann paints a fundamentally new image of the man who shaped Europe for over four decades. He reveals Metternich as more modern and his career much more forward-looking than we have ever recognized.

Clemens von Metternich emerged from the horrors of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Siemann shows, committed above all to the preservation of peace. That often required him, as the Austrian Empire’s foreign minister and chancellor, to back authority. He was, as Henry Kissinger has observed, the father of realpolitik. But short of compromising on his overarching goal Metternich aimed to accommodate liberalism and nationalism as much as possible. Siemann draws on previously unexamined archives to bring this multilayered and dazzling man to life. We meet him as a tradition-conscious imperial count, an early industrial entrepreneur, an admirer of Britain’s liberal constitution, a failing reformer in a fragile multiethnic state, and a man prone to sometimes scandalous relations with glamorous women.
Hailed on its German publication as a masterpiece of historical writing, Metternich will endure as an essential guide to nineteenth-century Europe, indispensable for understanding the forces of revolution, reaction, and moderation that shaped the modern world.

Just How Secular is Britain?

Here is what looks like a worthwhile empirical study of the condition of religion in Britain over a period of about 60 years preceding the second World War: Periodizing Secularization: Religious Allegiance and Attendance in Britain, 1860-1945 (Oxford University Press), by Clive D. Field.

“Moving beyond the (now somewhat tired) debates about secularization as paradigm, theory, or master narrative, Periodizing Secularization focuses upon the empirical evidence for secularization, viewed in its descriptive sense as the waning social influence of religion, in Britain. Particular emphasis is attached to the two key performance indicators of religious allegiance and churchgoing, each subsuming several sub-indicators, between 1880 and 1945, including the first substantive account of secularization during the fin de siecle. A wide range of primary sources is deployed, many of them relatively or entirely unknown, and with due regard to their methodological and interpretative challenges. On the back of them, a cross-cutting statistical measure of ‘active church adherence’ is devised, which clearly shows how secularization has been a reality and a gradual, not revolutionary, process. The most likely causes of secularization were an incremental demise of a Sabbatarian culture (coupled with the associated emergence of new leisure opportunities and transport links) and of religious socialization (in the church, at home, and in the school). The analysis is also extended backwards, to include a summary of developments during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries; and laterally, to incorporate a preliminary evaluation of a six-dimensional model of ‘diffusive religion’, demonstrating that these alternative performance indicators have hitherto failed to prove that secularization has not occurred. The book is designed as a prequel to the author’s previous volumes on the chronology of British secularization – Britain’s Last Religious Revival? (2015) and Secularization in the Long 1960s (2017). Together, they offer a holistic picture of religious transformation in Britain during the key secularizing century of 1880-1980.”

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