Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Universalism versus Particularism: The Dangers of Overreaction

As I've said previously, I'm resisting writing a full reply to the Post-Conservative's most recent (and very interesting) post, in the exchange we've been having.

In fact, I'm resisting writing a lot of blog posts, as I should be doing other things! The lure of an immediate audience is difficult to resist...

However, I've been turning our debate over and over in my mind, as much questioning my own positions as the Post-Conservative's, and I can at least give a foretaste of what my eventual reply will be.

This is it; I think there's a danger of an over-reaction against universalism. As I've said many times on this blog, I think our modern Western society has too much universalism (or the wrong sort of universalism), and not enough particularism-- not nearly enough particularism, which the human heart and spirit craves. And this has led to a huge backlash recently.

But we need universalism too. Especially we need the sort of universalism that covers any two or more people who are likely to run into each other, or to have an interaction with other, in ordinary life.

Why? That would require a long post. But in a list of words; courtesy, solidarity, fraternity, openness, humanity.

To me, cultural nationalism (which would, in fact, contain an element of civic nationalism) is capable of including all our fellow citizens, and even long-term migrants. At least, it's open to them if they want to be a part of it. Yes, "inclusion" is a horribly abused word, but it doesn't make it a bad word.

A cultural identity that is founded essentially on genetics (or race, or DNA, or colour, or any such thing) is, in my view, too particularistic-- no wriggle room, no give, no flexibility. Unlike cultural nationalism, you can't "opt in" no matter how much you want to. This, too, seems inhuman to me. Even the family, the social form most rooted in biology, has room for adoptive members.

However, this is just the outline of a response, which I'm afraid won't come for a long time!


  1. We have groups at both extremities here in Australia, especially when the immigration question comes up. I would suggest that's it's never as straightforward as any particular group claims. A niece of mine went to in Hobart and came back to visit Perth after about three years. Since then protests in the city gave become a regular event and most are pro or anti Islam. She found the ferocity frightening.
    I've looked up the Iona site since the time you mentioned it. The bill to(virtually) abolish any punishment for procuring abortion was of interest for more reason than one. Obviously there were enough concerned voices in Dáil Éireann to defeat the bill, but look where it came from-a TD who was elected for the Alliance Against Austerity Party. I know nothing about them, I assume they're at least tacitly anti- EU, they MAY have made it known that they were pro-choice, but certainly nobody would have voted for Bríd so that she would table a bill to liberalize abortion laws? And Sinn Féin? Agreed with the amendments but sat on the fence because the law wouldn't pass anyway? Whatever the troubled past of Sinn Féin or the IRA surely they make themselves more electable by remembering the Catholic roots that they claimed to have fought for?

    1. Sinn Féin were found, in a survey by Atheist Ireland some years ago, to be the most secularist party in the state. Since the middle of last century there has always been a Marxist tendency within Sinn Féin, and indeed an anti-clerical tendency. There are now nationalists in the north of Ireland who vote for unionist parties because Sinn Féin have become so left-wing and secularist.

    2. The Anti-Austerity Alliance are very open about their pro-abortion stance. So, while people may vote for them for other reasons, prolife voters have no excuse.

      One socialist party politician had a poster with the slogan: "You have a right to live, not just to exist". I emailed him asking how this squared with his support for abortion. He never replied.