Monday, January 08, 2018

A 2007 Interview with William Cavanaugh

From The Nation State Project, Schizophrenic Globalization, and the Eucharist: An Interview with William T. Cavanaugh by Ben Suriano & William T. Cavanaugh :

TOJ: You mentioned that the state acts as if it does not have an overriding metanarrative of its own, yet it does. You’ve commented on how it does take itself as peace-loving and the greatest promoter of world peace, yet through the use of violence as well. Can you, however, comment more specifically about the myths at the very origin of the state—in the early stages of its formative history—that have especially led to these currently accepted ideas?

BC: Well, when I say “the state” I am thinking in particular of the Western liberal democratic state. What is at the origin of this form is the idea of liberalism—which is, to reiterate, the idea of openness and universality overcoming particularity. This is one of the most basic ideas at bottom of the nuts and bolts formation of the Western state. It is basically an overcoming of the local through a centralization of power in the allegedly universal. So the particular loyalties of the people in the medieval period—loyalties to church and clan and guild and town and lord and so on—all of those particular loyalties are fragmented and absorbed into one centralized, universalized loyalty to the state. This transferring of loyalties in the process of state building is then a basic project that we find at the beginning of the rise of the Western state.

TOJ: You have mentioned in your work Charles Tilley’s idea that this process of state building is a process of war-making, almost like organized crime, in trying to centralize this power and these loyalties. And the centralized ordering of social space now seems to be more de-ritualized and secularized without the older particular loyalties of the past. Yet you have claimed in your work that in order for the state to develop this seemingly open, secular order it nevertheless uses quasi-religious liturgical practices that are somewhat of a religious parody in order to discipline and instrumentalize the devotion and imagination of the people. Can you comment on this movement of de-ritualizing and yet using quasi-liturgies by the state in order to gain allegiance and order? And what are ways it is still apparent in the U.S.?

BC: This process of state building and secularization is a very ambivalent movement because it certainly is the case that the liturgical rhythms of previous societies have been truly washed away. This is evident in the ways that the rhythms of time have been changed. Sundays used to be days of rest and now everything is open all the time on Sunday and everything is available 24-7 on the internet and so on, which really does de-liturgize society in a way.

But there are exceptions to this. I think the primary exception is the way that rituals of national patriotism are highly symbolic and highly ritualized and liturgized, especially as they revolve around the flag as the central totem symbol.

Susan Brinkmann on Mindfulness

CWR: Catholicism and Mindfulness: Compatible practices or contrary spiritualities? by Carl E. Olson
“The Church’s mystical tradition is rarely, if ever, addressed from the pulpit,” says Susan Brinkmann, author of a new book on the practice of mindfulness, “which leaves many vulnerable to being drawn into eastern forms of prayer that are not compatible with Christian prayer.”

Brad Gregory on Luther

Law and Liberty: Luther’s Rebellion: A Conversation with Brad Gregory by Brad S. Gregory

Rebel in the Ranks