The Clash of Traditions

tradition_banner_1_navyAt the Liberty Law site this morning, I have an essay on our recent Tradition Project conference in Trento, and what it reveals about the different understandings of tradition in American and Russian thought. For me, the conference shows how Samuel Huntington was right 20 years ago, when he described how a clash of civilizations would characterize the post-war world:

I thought a great deal about Huntington at a conference I helped organize last month in Trento, Italy, on tradition in American and Russian thought. Cosponsored by the Tradition Project at the St. John’s Center for Law and Religion, the Postsecular Conflicts Project at the University of Innsbruck, and Center for Religious Studies at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler, the conference brought together American, European, and Russian commentators to discuss the use of tradition in law and politics in the two countries. Given the way that Russo-American relations have dominated world politics lately, it seemed an important topic.

Tradition is an exceptionally complicated concept and the participants in the conference expressed a variety of views. The Russian scholars, in particular, disagreed among themselves about precisely what is going on in their country right now (more on this in a bit). But, for me at least, the conference confirmed the basic correctness of Huntington’s insights. People disposed to favor tradition in Russia and America often understand the concept very differently.

Consider religious freedom. For the past several years, Russian church and government officials have argued strenuously that cultural traditions can legitimately limit the exercise of religion. Both Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and President Putin have argued that cultural traditions deserve respect because they reflect eternal truths and embody a people’s morality. Because traditions have a moral character, states can legitimately act to protect them from outside forces. States can, for example, legitimately limit proselytism by new religious groups that threaten to undermine traditional religious communities and values. This attitude is behind a ban Russia recently imposed on the activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a ban the country’s Supreme Court sustained.

Some American traditionalists have a similar understanding of the moral value of tradition. But most, it’s fair to say, do not. As a rule, American conservatives do not defend tradition on the basis of unchanging moral verities or the right of nations to defend their cultures from foreign threats. American traditionalism is more pragmatic and empirical.

With all that’s going on now–and I mean right now, as the Trump-Putin meeting today and Trump’s speech in Warsaw yesterday–readers might find the essay interesting. You can find it here.

 

Writeup of Last Week’s Event in Trent

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Last week’s gathering at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler in Trent, Italy

 

The Fondazione Bruno Kessler has posted this report of our conference on tradition and traditionalism in American and Russian thought. The conference, at the Fondazione’s headquarters in Trent, Italy, was a very worthwhile event. The discussions revealed significant differences, and some similarities, in how American and Russian scholars perceive tradition and tradition’s proper role in law and politics.

For me, the most interesting discussions were those that revealed the differences among us. From the American side, some of us were concerned with carving out space for traditional communities in the larger society; others were more interested in placing tradition at the center of legal debate. Some argued that tradition is already more central to that debate than it sometimes seems.

On the Russian side, some participants took the Russian Church’s recent advocacy of traditional values as a serious critique of liberalism, one that resonates with consistent themes in Orthodox thought. Others, by contrast, argued that “traditional values” are a recent, post-Soviet construct, even a pretext.

The Postsecular Conflicts Project will publish an online collection of participants’ essays later this year. Meanwhile, let me say thanks again, on behalf of the Center, to Kristina Stoeckl, Pasquale Annicchino, Marco Ventura, and their very capable staffs, for being such good hosts. Let’s do it again soon!

Center Co-Sponsoring Conference on Tradition in America and Russia Next Week in Trent

tradition_banner_1_navyNext week, Marc and I will travel to the Italian city of Trent for an important conference, “Tradition and Traditionalisms Compared,” at the Fondazione Bruno Kessler. The conference, which our Center’s Tradition Project is co-sponsoring with the Postsecular Conflicts Project at the University of Innsbruck, will gather scholars and commentators from the US and Europe to consider the competing understandings of tradition in American and Russian law and politics. It’s a great lineup of participants, and with all that’s going on in the world today, a very timely topic.

From the Tradition Project, aside from Marc and me, the participants include Patrick Deneen (Notre Dame), Rod Dreher (The American Conservative), Michael Moreland (Villanova), and Adrian Vermeule (Harvard). The other participants are listed in the conference program, which you can find here. From the papers people have submitted, it looks like we will have a candid and productive discussion on deep issues–exactly what one hopes for in a scholarly community.

We’ll have a report on the conference after the event. Meanwhile, let me say that we’ve been delighted to plan this program with Kristina Stoeckl (Innsbruck) and Pasquale Annicchino (EUI), and that we look forward to seeing everyone in Trento next week!

Call for Panels: Comparative Law, Faith & Religion

The American Society of Comparative Law has announced that the theme of this year’s meeting in Washington in October will be “Comparative Law, Faith & Religion: The Role of Faith in Law.” The Society has issued a call for panels with a deadline of June 1:

Examples of diverse topics that such a conference could address are: (1) historical or modern day attitudes that result in having faith in a legal tradition or developing religious attitudes towards secular texts such as the U.S. constitution; (2) a comparison of secular faith with religious faith in a legal system, perhaps looking at the history and development of western democracies; (3) the role of Christianity in development of common and/or civil law traditions; (4) comparative approaches to legal ethics and the influence of religion on development and implementation of
ethical rules for lawyers and judges; (5) Islamic visions of dispute settlement and the role of Islamic law in modern day commercial arbitration; (6) the role of Catholicism in development of family law in Latin America; (7) Laws of the nation’s secular authority as faithless law; (8) the continuing influence of Hindu “law”; (9) whether there is such a thing as Buddhist law?; (10) the influence of the Talmud on modern western legal systems or (11) the challenge of teaching about religion in a law school setting; etc. Interdisciplinary work is encouraged.

Further details are here.

Ten Napel, “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom”

Classical liberalism was supposed to resolve religious conflict within a society, principally by making religion a private matter and, in compensation, allowing religious communities, within limits, to conduct themselves as they saw fit. Today, the classical liberal model is undergoing a lot of stress, as people, particularly on the left, increasingly question what those limits should be. Hans-Martien ten Napel (Leiden University), one of the most interesting scholars in comparative law and religion today, has a new book, Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom: To Be Fully Human (Routledge), that addresses these questions. Here’s the description from the Routledge website:

9781138647152In both Europe and North America it can be argued that the associational and institutional dimensions of the right to freedom of religion or belief are increasingly coming under pressure. This book demonstrates why a more classical understanding of the idea of a liberal democracy can allow for greater respect for the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The book examines the major direction in which liberal democracy has developed over the last fifty years and contends that this is not the most legitimate type of liberal democracy for religiously divided societies. Drawing on theoretical developments in the field of transnational constitutionalism, Hans-Martien ten Napel argues that redirecting the concept and practice of liberal democracy toward the more classical notion of limited, constitutional government, with a considerable degree of autonomy for civil society organizations would allow greater religious pluralism. The book shows how, in a postsecular and multicultural context, modern sources of constitutionalism and democracy, supplemented by premodern, transcendental legitimation, continue to provide the best means of legitimating Western constitutional and political orders.

Broyde, “Sharia Tribunals, Rabbinical Courts, and Christian Panels”

In June, the Oxford University Press will release “Sharia Tribunals, Rabbinical Courts, and Christian Panels: Religious Arbitration in America and the West,” by Michael Broyde (Emory University).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book explores the rise of private arbitration in religious and other values-oriented communities, and it argues that secular societies should use secular legal 9780190640286.jpgframeworks to facilitate, enforce, and also regulate religious arbitration. It covers the history of religious arbitration; the kinds of faith-based dispute resolution models currently in use; how the law should perceive them; and what the role of religious arbitration in the United States should be. Part One examines why religious individuals and communities are increasingly turning to private faith-based dispute resolution to arbitrate their litigious disputes. It focuses on why religious communities feel disenfranchised from secular law, and particularly secular family law. Part Two looks at why American law is so comfortable with faith-based arbitration, given its penchant for enabling parties to order their relationships and resolve their disputes using norms and values that are often different from and sometimes opposed to secular standards. Part Three weighs the proper procedural, jurisdictional, and contractual limits of arbitration generally, and of religious arbitration particularly. It identifies and explains the reasonable limitations on religious arbitration. Part Four examines whether secular societies should facilitate effective, legally enforceable religious dispute resolution, and it argues that religious arbitration is not only good for the religious community itself, but that having many different avenues for faith-based arbitration which are properly limited is good for any vibrant pluralistic democracy inhabited by diverse faith groups.

Eekelaar, “Family Rights and Religion”

In May, Routledge will release “Family Rights and Religion,” by John Eekelaar (Pembroke College, Oxford University).  The publisher’s description follows:

The interaction between individual rights, which are often seen in secular terms, and religion is becoming an important and complex topic not only for academic study logo-rt-cbut for practical policy. This volume collects a range of writings from journals, edited collections and individual books which deal with different aspects of the interaction within the context of family life, and which appear with their original pagination. These studies have been selected because they throw a sharp light on central elements of the role of religion in determining the structure of the rights of family members in relation to one another, both from an historical and contemporary perspective. While many of the writings are focused on US and European systems, selected writings covering other systems illustrate the universal nature of the topic. The studies are accompanied by a reflective commentary from the editor which sets the writings in a broad context of social, constitutional and philosophical thought, with the aim of stimulating critical thought and discussion.

Idrissa, “The Politics of Islam in the Sahel”

In June, Routledge will release The Politics of Islam in the Sahel: Between Persuasion and Violence by Rahmane Idrissa (University of the Witwatersrand). The publisher’s description follows:

routledge-logo‘Ideologies need enemies to thrive, religion does not’. Using the Sahel as a source of five comparative case studies, this volume aims to engage in the painstaking task of disentangling Islam from the political ideologies that have issued from its theologies to fight for governmental power and the transformation of society. While these ideologies tap into sources of religious legitimacy, the author shows that they are fundamentally secular or temporal enterprises, defined by confrontation with other political ideologies–both progressive and liberal–within the arena of nation states. Their objectives are the same as these other ideologies, i.e., to harness political power for changing national societies, and they resort to various methods of persuasion, until they break down into violence.

The two driving questions of the book are, whence come these ideologies, and why do they–sometimes–result in violence? Ideologies of Salafi radicalism are at work in the five countries of the Sahel region, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, (Northern) Nigeria and Senegal, but violence has broken out only in Mali and Northern Nigeria. Using a theoretical framework of ideological development and methods of historical analysis, Idrissa traces the emergence of Salafi radicalism in each of these countries as a spark ignited by the shock between concurrent processes of Islamization and colonization in the 1940s. However, while the spark eventually ignited a blaze in Mali and Nigeria, it has only led to milder political heat in Niger and Senegal and has had no burning effect at all in Burkina Faso. By meticulously examining the development of Salafi radicalism ideologies over time in connection with developments in national politics in each of the countries, Idrissa arrives at compelling conclusions about these divergent outcomes. Given the many similarities between the countries studied, these divergences show, in particular, that history, the behaviour of state leaders and national sociologies matter–against assumptions of ‘natural’ contradictions between religion (Islam) and secularism or democracy.

This volume offers a new perspective in discussions on ideology, which remains–as is shown here–the independent variable of many key contemporary political processes, either hidden in plain sight or disguised in a religious garb.

“Religion, Education and Human Rights” (Sjöborg & Ziebertz, eds.)

In May, Springer will release “Religion, Education and Human Rights: Theoretical and Empirical Perspectives,” edited by Anders Sjöborg (Uppsala University) and Hans-Georg Ziebertz (University of Würzburg).  The publisher’s description follows:

This book examines the interconnectedness between religion, education, and human rights from an international perspective using an interdisciplinary approach. It deals 9783319540689with compulsory or secondary school education in different contexts, as well as higher education, and has as its common theme the multiplicity of secularisms in different national contexts. Presenting rich cases, the contributions include empirical and theoretical perspectives on how international trends of migration and cultural diversity, as well as judicialization of social and political processes, and rapid religious and social changes come into play as societies find their way in an increasingly diverse context. The book contains chapters that present case studies on how confessional or non-confessional Religious Education (RE) at schools in different societal contexts is related to the concept of universal human rights. It presents cases studies that display an intriguing array of problems that point to the role of religion in the public sphere and show that historical contexts play important and different roles. Other contributions deal with higher education, where one questions how human rights as a concept and as discourse is taught and examines whether withdrawing from certain clinical training when in university education to become a medical doctor or a midwife on the grounds of conscientious objections can be claimed as a human right. From a judicial point of view one chapter discerns the construction of the concept of religion in the Swedish Education Act, in relation to the Swedish constitution as well European legislation. Finally, an empirical study comparing data from young people in six different countries in three continents investigates factors that explain attitudes towards human rights.

Ten Napel, “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom”

In May, Routledge will release “Constitutionalism, Democracy and Religious Freedom: To be Fully Human,” by Hans-Martien ten Napel (Leiden University).  The publisher’s description follows:

In both Europe and North America it can be argued that the associational and institutional dimensions of the right to freedom of religion or belief are increasingly 9781138647152coming under pressure. This book demonstrates why a more classical understanding of the idea of a liberal democracy can allow for greater respect for the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The book examines the major direction in which liberal democracy has developed over the last fifty years and contends that this is not the most legitimate type of liberal democracy for religiously divided societies. Drawing on theoretical developments in the field of transnational constitutionalism, Hans-Martien ten Napel argues that redirecting the concept and practice of liberal democracy toward the more classical notion of limited, constitutional government, with a considerable degree of autonomy for civil society organizations would allow greater religious pluralism. The book shows how, in a postsecular and multicultural context, modern sources of constitutionalism and democracy, supplemented by premodern, transcendental legitimation, continue to provide the best means of legitimating Western constitutional and political orders.

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