Saturday, December 8, 2007

Civic Virtue

Vox Nova discusses "organic, cultivated civic virtue" in an excellent article.
The French Revolution, argued Burke, was dangerously full of abstract zeal for liberty and equality. The revolutionaries hastily tore down intermediate bodies and parochial loyalties that stood, and should stand, between the individual and the state. These “little platoons,” in his famous phrase, were attacked with high-minded and seemingly noble principles: no more feudal distinctions and no more special privilege for guilds and greedy churchmen. But the result was not a clean slate on which a new and equal society could be built, but instead the institutionalization of another privileged class. Further, the individual and the once-valuable mediating organizations were left more alone and defenseless than before, as an all-encompassing state – which in theory, belonged to the citizenry – was out of the reach of ordinary citizens. And abstract zeal for significant change so as to ‘protect’ what citizens cherish is certainly not a historical anomaly. Burke’s first constitutional principle is that a good constitution, a good political order, must organically grow out of the common experience of a people over a considerable period of time. It was not possible to create, from whole cloth, a quickly-improved constitutional order; an enduring and healthy constitution is the product of the struggles of the nation. It comes from learning the lessons of overreach and better understanding the boundaries of coercion, regardless of how seemingly noble and rhetorically persuasive the arguments for swift change.
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3 comments:

alaughland said...

Events have a way of snowballing as can be observe by our country’s current situation.

David said...

As with civic identity, so too religious identity. The last 40 years have seen an attempt to create a new Catholic religious identity by creating a new liturgy "whole cloth" as opposed to organically developing, and doing away with the mediation of traditional popular piety.

I don't write this to be polemical, but simply to observe that this wonderful analysis of civic virtue can shed some light on our current situation in the Church as well.


P.S. I have never posted a comment here before, but I have been reading your blog for a while. Thank you for posting so many insightful reflections!

elena maria vidal said...

Very true, Alaughland.

David, I could not agree with you more. Thank you for visiting and for your kind comment.