Sunday, November 4, 2007

Charles Taylor - A Secular Age

Over at What I Saw in America Patrick Deneen has a very interesting post on Charles Taylor's A Secular Age. This book is sitting on my bookshelf but Taylor is not easy reading and it is over 800 pages so I confess I've been scared of starting it. But I think I'm going to have to.

In response to Taylor Deneen says:

I grow increasingly convinced that our more just society is based not upon a deeper commitment to justice per se, but our increasing liberation from having to care about the fate and condition of other people.

He goes on to point to signs of this in both pop culture (Seinfeld) and in the dissolving social safety net.

The horn of the dilemma for me is suggested in what he says about the old more communal ways of relating:

As Tocqueville predicted, it would be the ascent of individualism itself that would give rise to the felt need for a "tutelary State" to compensate for what had once been provided - albeit unevenly, informally, unequally - within the thicker webs of familial and local life.

The problem is that these goods are provided unevenly and unequally because they are so often informal. So much may be decided by class, race, gender, kinship ties that it is hard not to see the problems with it. George Grant wrote something to that effect in one of his books. The problem with criticizing liberalism, which he did, was that it has brought benefits we don't want to give up. And yet, I agree that we are paying a huge price for this loss of social ties.

Now I'm off to church to live out my communal ties.

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