Monday, August 22, 2005

Teocons and Nozick

Marcello Pera, the President of the Italian Senate (Second Chamber of the Italian Parliament), gave a small lesson of philosophy, religion and multiculturalism to the participants of the annual meeting of the conservative Catholic organization Comunione e liberazione (CL) that is currently taking place in Rimini, Italy.

The crux of Pera's speech went against, what he branded as “ideology of multiculturalism and relativism”. He warned of a moral crisis of the western (Christian) world, criticized the lack of invocation of Christian values in the European constitution, criticized the legalization of homosexual marriages in Spain, branded the use of arms against fundamentalists who want to destroy our way of life as legitimate (“we are at war”, he said), claimed that the uncontrolled immigration to Europe must stop, because if not our society will going inevitably to transform itself into a society of “mongrels”. His words took a surprisingly different tone, when compared with the reconciliation speech of the new Pope Benedict XVI, delivered at the world meeting of the catholic youth in Köln, Germany.

As far as the partisans of the CL, they welcomed the words of the Italian Christian democrat politician. They interrupted him with applauding as far as 34 times.

What has the academic community have to say to his interpretation of political philosophy is another issue. Just to give several illustrative examples of Pera's shocking interpretation of some contemporary Western philosophers work. He mentioned “the difficult enterprise of rendering clear the philosophical thought of Jürgen Habermas”. This is probably to the fact that Pera does not seem to understand subtle arguments. Furthermore, he calls for abandoning of the concept of “open society” of Karl Popper, and finally and most surprisingly, he proposes to the CL meeting (and the world and Italy) the night watchman, minimal state of Robert Nozick. It is difficult to situate Nozick and the libertarian thought in the psychological mindset of the teocons (note the difference with neocons), on many accounts (if not all) Nozick would disagree (if he were to be alive) with the model of state and society proposed by Pera. Doubtfully did Pera read Nozick, or maybe he did, but then for him it is “difficult enterprise” to understand any model of political philosophy. What is probably here at stake is that Pera (and CL, not surprisingly so) want to promote a combination of right wing economic ideology and theological conservativism. This is probably what pushes them to offer an unfair partial presentation of Nozick's work by putting an accent on property oriented elements of Nozick's work and not on his libertarianism overall. If one was to read Nozick honestly then he would have to conclude that two aspects of his work go hand in hand (if one would be radical in interpreting Nozick, one could claim that his theory is more about personal liberties and less about property but this is an argument probably to subtle for Pera). Nozick does not think that the business of his minimal state is to impose any restrictions on gay marriages, that the minimal state should restrict immigration, or that the minimal state should invoke the principles of a religion in its constitutive act. If Nozick, in heaven or hell (I believe unlike many left-wingers who believe in such theological concepts, that he is definitely in heaven), was listening to Pera's speech, he would be insulted and surprised by the putting of his work into the context of a dubious and confusing political agenda proposed by Pera.

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