Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Liberal State as New Moloch 

Moloch was the god to whom the Canaanites sacrificed their children. The self-described "radically orthodox" theologian John Milbank sees the modern, secular, liberal state as an even more monstrous god, because it exacts more horrendous sacrifices, and does so in the name of nothing at all--nothing beyond the perpetuation of order, stability, and the meaningless "freedom" to not be killed.

Milbank contends that the secular state is in fact "sacralized," almost theocratic, in the way that it arrogates for itself--without its citizens seeing this as an action for which anyone is responsible--the authority to designate which individuals are actually human beings and which are outcast waste. (The "natural rights" of human beings can only be guaranteed by, and exercised within, the state, which thus becomes the source and arbiter of these "rights," which are not actually, and never were, "natural.") These and many related ideas are explored in Milbank's 2002 essay on "Sovereignty, Empire, Capital, and Terror." The main thesis is that catastrophic terrorism is not unique, except in the way that it challenges the sovereignty of the secular state. But Milbank has many other interesting things to say about contemporary geopolitics and neo-fascist dementia.


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