The Religious and Secular Sources of Democracy and Nationalism

– Good afternoon, everybody. And welcome to a new episode. In our ongoing series on Global Religious and Secular Dynamics. My name is Jose Casanova. And for the first time I can announce publicly that I am emeritus professor of sociology and theology at Georgetown University as of two days ago, August 25th.

But I continue my affiliation as senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, which sponsors this series. A series, which is also sponsored by Reset DOC. Today we are very fortunate indeed to have as our complaisant, professor Craig Calhoun, who is professor of social science at Arizona State University.

But before that he has been professor in many other universities and has had directing post, directing the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU for many years. Was the president of the Social Science Resource Council for 12 years, then moved to London, to the London School of Economics

Of which he was director and president for several years. Moved to the Berggruen Institute that he directed. And now he’s in Arizona. And throughout his life, So he has been dedicated to research and public knowledge, both as a researcher, but also as a director of many many research and academic institutions.

And obviously he has dedicated his life, his only scholarly life to precisely the study of the topics we are going to touch today. Democracy, nationalism, global, religious and secular dynamics, cosmopolitanism. These will be the topics we will be discussing and we’ll end with some observations on COVID-19 the pandemic, and what it implies

And its effects on all these institutions. So Craig welcome, welcome very much. Thank you, thank you for joining us. Let’s begin with democracy. Democracy or rather democratization, the surging and receding waves. Some years ago, 1997, I believe or 94 I’m not sure, anyhow. You published a book, “Neither Gods nor Emperors”

And “The Students Movement for Democratization in China”. This was based on essays you had published in prominent journals in 1989 in the midst of the Tiananmen Square Movement and its repression. This was a high point of expectations of a third wave of democratization, that had started in Southern Europe,

Portugal, Greece, Spain moved to Latin America, moved to Eastern Europe, moved to East Asia, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and then ended in South Africa. There were expectations that the wave will continue and to China and to much of the Muslim war, this didn’t happen. So let’s discuss about China specifically and what happened,

Why these expectations could not be realized there? And what is happening to democracy in China today? Some comments on this. – Well come to China, thanks Jose, let me probably start by saying. Democracy is always a project, it’s never a settled, finished reality. And so the project of building democracy in China

Has been one up against a variety of challenges contested by other visions of the future. But in some degree that’s true everywhere. The project of democracy in the United States, isn’t something that was finished in 1776 or 1789 or 1792. There are series of movements that expand the electorate most famously

The Abolition Movement that brought the Civil War, but then the Suffrage Movement, that brought women the right to vote and so forth. So democracy has been something that has been building over time. So the first thing I want to say is that everywhere democracy is not just a matter of institutional arrangements.

We have elections, we have free press. It’s a matter of movements of participation, of struggles. So democracy is necessarily a project and we can come back to other examples of this, including the US but now China. There were those for whom democracy remains today, a very important project.

Those who were hopeful of democracy in 1989 and the 1990s, and have lost some of their hope and there’s a longer history of this. So I’ll be really brief, but during the few hundred years of modernity and during the time in which China has entered into a new kind of global relations,

Not understanding itself simply as the middle kingdom and the center. It’s been transformed. For one thing, it’s been transformed by becoming increasingly a nation not the center of the world, but one nation among many with strong Solidarity and in common with other nations,

More and more of a bottom up idea that the people matter, the welfare of the people matters. This wasn’t absent in Imperial history, but it wasn’t as strong, it becomes more strong. Then it gets boost from things like literacy. As the Chinese language literally introduces new characters, simplified characters to ease printing

And printing helps to bring literacy. And so there’s a stronger idea of the people. This gets a manifestation in Nationalist Movements, 1911 famously, it gets a manifestation in communism with a very strong idea of being the People’s Republic of China. And then for some,

The rule by the people and rule for the people necessarily means democracy. And so this was true in 1989, in the struggles I wrote about. There were students and there were others who wanted China to live up to a strong idea of being for the people. And claimed that the communist

Partly as it existed then, was not living up to that, it was corrupt. It was pursuing its own power and not the welfare of the people. And it was failing to make China strong and international. Now we fast forward from 1989 to today, we have a renewal of communist language

And discourse with Xi Jinping. Who indeed is now pursuing a rectification campaign against people he sees as problems, very reminiscent of now, but this is a strong reassertion of an authoritarian center. And for several years, the would be Democrats in China have been losing out. The most visible face of this

Is China’s complete annexation of Hong Kong and destruction of the Hong Kong Democracy Movement. But inside China too, people are afraid to speak up too strongly for democracy. A few still do. And with that, there’s a final problem, of course which is that in 1989,

The US looked like a nice model for China. When people would say, Oh, let’s be a democracy. They could look at Europe, they could look at the US and they could say, being a democracy can be linked to other good benefits, other good values. Unfortunately today,

The US does not look like such a happy model for would be Democrats elsewhere. – Yes, but let’s look at specifically in China, one of the things, the subtitle of your book was, “The Students Struggle for Democracy”. It was a student’s struggle. My own experience in studying Transitions to Democracy

Is that you need transversal coalitions of workers, students, human rights lawyers, maybe national groups, religious groups. And this is what has been always absent in the China context. You may have some artists, you may have some lawyers on their own, but the way in which those different movements, I’ve never seen them coalesce.

And these, I think one of the weakness of civil society, I wouldn’t say that it is a authoritarian state penitentiary society completely, not at all. It’s a lack of autonomy. But then autonomy is very strongly regulated by the state. and knows exactly what are the limits.

And the people sort of in this respect, the 2000 year state that has to a certain extent imposed a model up on society remains very strong, despite what you said about nationalism, I thought about it. But nationalism of course also has its problems because nationalism is basically a nationalism

That makes difficult to deal with debate and seeing as seen in (indistinct) and other non Han groups. So there are difficulties on both grounds. The traditional state and the kind of Chinese nationalism. – I think that’s true, but maybe not as completely or as strongly as you’re stating it.

So first, the 1989 movement was not just students. The subtitle of my book is “Students and the Struggle for Democracy”. And it was students that I was with and talking to and studying. And they were certainly in the forefront, but the people who died at the end of that struggle

On June 4th were not students. They were workers and others who had joined with the students, and the students also received support from civil society actors of an earlier generation. People who had been involved in previous movements in China. One of the stories everywhere, including China

Is that large scale changes take many steps. And so China had had a number of movements and steps. Some of them explicitly democratic, but some of them, for example praising individual autonomy and individual spiritual autonomy, which was potentially important to democracy, but it wasn’t only for the reason of democracy.

So I think China has a relatively weak civil society or relatively weak legal framework and so forth. But I don’t think it’s quite all or nothing. And I think that in the 1980s, really from the late 1970s through to the early years of this millennium, China was building more civil society organizations

And giving more autonomy to them and they were becoming stronger. So there’s been a reversal made part of what has been going on with the current rule by C, has been a repression of many of these institutions and these forms of connection that we’re underwriting democracy,

Which of course he sees as a threat to party rule. – Now, recently you’ve been looking precisely at the crisis of democracy throughout the world. You are now working on a manuscript that will be forthcoming together with Charles Taylor The title I understand is going to be “The Generations of Democracy Degeneration.” So please, can you talk about these degeneration? What is going to be the main points of the book? – This isn’t a sense the other side of the coin from my point that democracy is always a project.

There are not only forward steps in this project. There are also backwards steps. And the idea of degeneration of democracy is that democracy can get in trouble, not only from outside attacks, like anti Democrats, but from internal weaknesses and degeneration. These include things like the erosion of the power of citizens.

Not only their power in a political voice, but their ability to manage their own lives, to get things done. And we’ve seen in the US and in many other countries, this kind of erosion of citizen empowerment. we’ve seen a loss of the inclusive nationalism of the ability of the overall discussion

To encompass and embrace everybody. And so in the US we talk about cultural wars, there’s an anti-immigrant movement. There are various frames for this, but they are all in some degree failures of the inclusive discourse of being American. And then there’s hyper partisanship. So, I think these are all manifestations of degeneration.

You can see a different story in Hungary, where democracy perhaps did not have the same long historical path and equally strong foundations, but where there has also been a degeneration and a backward walk for democracy. And, you can see versions of that in India. The world’s largest democracy,

Which has had forward and backward movements. We’re looking mainly at the rich industrial countries in the world. And the ways democracy has gotten into trouble in some of them not equally everywhere. This others often analyze this and say, oh, it’s populism. We talk about populism, but we say,

Well that’s not exactly an explanation, because populism can go both ways and there are left populism and right populism. There is a strong importance to speaking out to the people, but then there’s use and manipulation of that by demagogic leaders the greatest problem. So that raises as many questions as it answers.

And we don’t think that this kind of so-called populism, whether of Orban or Trump, just comes out of nowhere. And Orban and Trump create the problems. We think it reflects weaknesses in the democratic institutions in the framework. And these, I would argue, reflect underlying social conditions.

In the United States there’s been accelerating inequality. There’s been a disruption of local communities, whether by de-industrialization and plant closures, or by the economic transformations of so-called logistical of commerce that is ordering everything from Amazon, instead of buying it from a shop in your community and so forth.

And these and other changes have undermined some of the conditions for democracy. So that’s what the book is about. – Good, let’s move to a related topic. Nationalism, democracy are intimately connected. You wouldn’t have one without the other probably, but as we know nationalism also doesn’t means necessarily democracy.

And democracy could be a multinational democracy. So let’s look at. You’ve been involved in many of the debates around Nationalism and Cosmopolitanism. Those who were saying, it’s the end of the nation and state now a global cosmopolitanism is the future. You were already a skeptic about these kinds of claims,

And you wrote a very important essay, “The Limits and Necessity of Cosmopolitanism.” We could also say the same thing about nationalism, the limits and necessity of nationalism. So I want you to basically elaborate on precisely how can we not live without nationalism? But how we need to somehow go be a nationalism

To create trans-national structures, that basically are able to address all our global challenges and crisis. So not to put faith on a abstract cosmopolitanism, but how can we get strengthened nationalism and democracy by being able to go beyond it to address the global challenges? – At the heart of these questions

How do you have a good nationalism. A nationalism that you’d like, and that works for people. And that is not just manipulated for international conflict or domestic repression of so-called aliens or deviance or others by the majority. And this is a challenge and it’s a project. What I suggested in that essay,

And a variety of other things in a book I’ve never quite finished on nationalism and cosmopolitanism is that you can’t wish away nationalism. I’m not saying nationalism is inevitable and the world has to always be structured in terms of nation States. But that we live in a world of nation States,

Much of what has made globalization viable, has been international agreements. We create the United Nations, We create the World Trade Organization. We have international agreements for things like standards, so that we have an agreement of what is an ounce. We have an agreement on the width of railroad tracks.

We have failed to have just one agreement on electrical sockets. We have five or six. But there are standards for basic industrial and consumer products. These are the most extreme example of what we’re doing right now. The internet is not just a technology. It is a creature of international agreements,

Legal treaties, that do things like assign addresses and manage the way in which information flows around the internet. So, it’s not so easy to say, Oh, let’s just forget nationalism. Let’s imagine we have only individuals and they are perfect conscious individuals, and they relate to each other in the global cosmopolis.

We have to take nation seriously. then I’d suggest when we take it seriously, it’s not just an enemy. It’s a resource. It’s part of how actually existing cosmopolitanism works, actually existing care for the world. If that’s what cosmopolitanism is about, is accomplished largely by an internal politics,

That tries to get nations to change the way that they relate to the rest of the world, to not only be militaristic. And so I have felt we need both a global consciousness that tries to care for everybody, and a recognition of the importance of the political struggles within nation States,

About how we do that. And then of course, there’s the issue of the political struggles about how we live together inside the country, How the Han majority in China relates to the Uighur or the other minorities in China and so forth. And the same thing in the US.

We have a kind of White Christian Nationalism that is flourishing in a minority, but a powerful and disruptive minority in the United States, that claims to be the true American identity, against various others, that’s very problematic. And what I want to say is the answer to that is not to say,

Oh, we are only individuals with rights. The answer is to say, how else can we structure an inclusive identity? How can we make a better national whole? – I mean, one of the fundamental questions. The structures of solidarity? The strength of nationalism comes precisely from the ability to create this weed.

The sense of not only a cognitive, if we say a reading, emerging community through newspapers, but really an emotional community which obviously has gotten through all kinds of emotional memories etc. There are two problems I see today, one is of course, that in our case of democracy,

One of the fundamental issues is the dramatic polarization, that weakens national solidarity. And this makes even more impossible then to even create the good type of national solidarity, that can go beyond this national solidarity and create the structures which are transnational. Because I think that the issue of

Transnational global society is not only an issue of creating international mechanisms through which the nation States are able to collaborate and work together and all kinds of standards. but also create transnational structures of solidarity. We. – Sure. And so in here is where I want to bring religion in.

The same way that from Benedict under Saloninus, we know very clearly that the nation is a secularized church. There were national churches before there were secular nations in Europe. And to a certain extent religion has played this crucial role of being a source for nationalism. But you have also transnational religious communities

That could play an important role. It’s what I call global denominationalism, but doesn’t have to be only transnational religious communities. It can be transnational secular communities from all kinds of pacifist movements, ecological movements, movement for immigration refugees. So we need to create these structures, not only international agreements, but re-transnational social movements,

Transnational social structures to create precise the institutions that will be necessary to go beyond purely a whole system of nation state. – Well, I agree with you Jose, and the issue is truly changing a world system in the sort of strong sense. That includes a political economy,

A set of social structures and social institutions and culture. So we have an existing world system, a capitalist dominated Western dominated world system. and we would like to see it transformed. I think you and I. I think as I argued in those earlier essays, transforming doesn’t mean wishing away.

It means figuring out a historical process of change by which you can get something better. So you could see, and we have some scary examples in this COVID era of collapse of international order, which could bring chaos. So I think that we have to consider

That getting rid of nation States could produce chaos, or it could be part of a transformation to something better. How do we get that? You rightly point to the role of religion in transnational organizations. So there are a one dimension of this is the denominationalism

As you point to it on a global scale. So we have various versions of Christians and various versions of Buddhists organized on global scale. Another is the disproportionate engagement of religious people, People motivated by religious faith and understandings in secular organizations of certain kinds. So humanitarian action is often organized by secular groups.

So it’s not only church world service or something like that. It’s also secular humanitarian actions, Médecins Sans Frontières that are informed by religious heritage, religious thinking, and that mobilize religious people, including people from different religious backgrounds, Médecins Sans Frontières had sort of Catholic roots kind of odd combination of Catholicism and Maoism.

But it also then mobilizes others, Protestants and Jews and so forth. So, I think we need to be attentive to this. And I would quickly say that what it means is that global solidarity is poorly conceptualized by that image of a world full of independent conscious individuals.

Rather it’s better conceptualized as a patchwork quilt, in which there are many different kinds of connections between different kinds of solidary groups. So we aren’t individuals who are stripped of religions, stripped of communities, stripped of nation, stripped of all of our distinctive characteristics. We remain individuals because of those characteristics

Embedded in various kinds of communities. And that’s the path to a better future global solidarity, not having it be limited to nations, but not necessarily banishing nations either. And building multiple overlapping kinds of connections. One quick thing I want to say about nation of democracy is nation… Well, I’ll make it three steps.

Religion played a big role in the coming of nations, but in certain ways, as you point to Benedict Anderson saying. Nations become secularized of inheritors of religious communities. But not only that, nations become secular structures for relating multiple religious communities to each other. So we see very clearly in the United States,

But in various settings. So that the importance of nation is partly enabling people of different religions to live together in reasonable harmony, not just expressing one religion. And when nation is structured to just express one religion, that’s usually the enemy of democracy. When it is structured in a way that enables people

Of different religions to relate to each other, that’s much more compatible with democracy and with other kinds of differences that coexist in nations, people have no religious faith, but various kinds of views. So I think it’s important that we have a demos, right? Democracy depends on a Demos,

But that’s not dictated by ethno-nationalism. That’s one of the resources out of which demos is built religious identities sometimes one of those resources, but the loyalties that connect us to each other in our countries are more than either of these, and they have to be for it to be democratic.

– Well, this leads us then to the topic of going more in depth into the relation between global religious and secular dynamics. When you served as president of SSRC, you made this issue central to the intellectual project and the research project of the SSRC,

Partly because of the work you have been doing for years with Charles Taylor. You co-edited with Jonathan VanAntwerpen, who was one of the people that worked with you, several very important books, the book on “Varieties of secularism” analyzing child state on a secular age. Then a second book on secularism,

I don’t remember the title, but it came out of the many workshops you organize, I participate in these workshops. I also participated in this book, and then you wrote the third very important collection of essays and covered much in religion, and other major philosopher public intellectual, political figure, political theories,

Who has been in dialogue with you and with Charles Taylor for many years, and who was a very strong representative of secular modernity And then it comes out how to revise his own position and to be more open to the possibility of the role of religion, the public is fear.

So tell me about what has been faced? What was the impulse that led you to really put this at the forefront of the work you were doing in the social science research center that later you continue in the London school of economics. What can we learn from these new understanding of how

Religious and secular dynamics are interconnected, except they are not exclusive of each other, but actually they are intertwined. And where should we put precisely the focus, the things that we still need to understand better or to study today? – Okay, I will say my sources on this,

But institutions of course are not simply run by presidents as though they were Kings. And so there are a number of voices coming together. The SSRC is an organization that always brings people like you and Charles Taylor and others into conversation. And the conversation was intended to address themes

That were too often pushed into the background or obscured by conventional disciplinary academic discussions. And so to get people coming from anthropology and political science and economics and sociology talking to each other, but also talking about questions, like the extent to which our very understanding of knowledge or a very understanding of democracy

Reflected secular assumptions and what secular assumptions. A key importance to the works you were citing is the argument that secularism is not just a disappearance of religion. What Charles Taylor calls a subtraction story, and you indeed had made an important work, an argument about de-privatization renewal of public religion,

And the intensification of religious practices in this modern era when religion is supposedly receding. But I wanted to argue in particular. And I think Charles did that, secularization grows out of religion as much as it is imposed on religion. And that there is inside religion, a set of reasons

For trying to figure out structures to relate to this worldly life in vapor sense. And so, there are old ideas like secular priests versus priests and monasteries and all, but in modern democracies and in modern plural democracies with multiple religions, working out ways to relate to each other

Is something that people did often while being religious and for religious reasons, it wasn’t just because they lost their faith. But then that had an effect, changing the nature of faith in a religious practice and thinking. Universities grow out of some of this history, in fact. And so it’s not a surprise that

Disciplines and knowledge institutions do, but one of the peculiarities of the university is the way it compartmentalize thinking about religion and thinking about secularism as taking it out of most of the social science disciplines, placing it in the humanities, but also often in a religion department or a theology school, not everywhere.

And so not seeing as much as we would have liked the kind of connections of religion and secularism and their histories to all sorts of other things like the university itself, as I mentioned. So this was the importance then again at the LSE is a very secular institutions,

Are proud of its socialist, secular heritage and members of the LSE would tell you, it always was it’s completely secular. And they’re surprised when they find out that the Bishop of London laid the cornerstone at the invitation of Sydney and Beatrice, and socialists. That there was a Christian Socialist Movement

That was part of the shaping as well. That tends to get forgotten in the way in which we narrate the history, and the LSE confronted to make long story short and interesting but very telling. The students were much more religious than the professors. The students who come from all over the world,

The LSE is an amazingly international institution with students from every country. The majority of the students are not British. They come from all over. but the students often have very active religious involvements. And they have a hard time connecting those to their studies in the secular disciplines of the university.

But that also means that the people in those disciplines don’t have a very easy time understanding religion, that in the seeing the importance of religion, why it would matter for diplomacy and so forth. So a project at the LSE, building a faith center was partly to provide space for religious students,

But it was partly to build connections. so that both secular and religious people would be thinking better and acting better in relationship to a world that is neither Holy religious, nor Holy secular – On this topic, as you know, recently, Ronald Englehart published an essay in foreign affairs,

Basically “God is in decline”, whatever was the title, the global decline of the religion. As You know, Englehart and Pippa Norris have been basically putting forward a rather simplistic thesis. That religion is simply a response to existential insecurity, which of course is widespread throughout history in Agrarian societies.

This Agrarian societies move to industrial societies, and then to post industrial societies, existential security diminishes, and therefore religion is going to diminish as well. There’s thesis which of course was comparing much of Western European societies, the America, US was the exception. Then since the nineties, there was a modernization drive

In many non Western societies that was connected with religious revivals. So the thesis was in crisis, but now he has come up with, he says empirical evidence that finally the whole world, there is a clear decline in belief in God. Now it seems to me that the strongest argument

Or empirical evidence come from three countries in the list, which are the United States, Chile and Australia. One could argue for a specific reasons why the norms that people without religion have grown in the US in the last 20, 30 years, but it’s not necessarily as a sign of modernization

Is simply for a very specific historical reason. So I want you to maybe take a look at this thesis. What would you have to say to them? – Okay, really quickly, Englehart’s data and Englehart notes his data over a number of works is cross national survey research.

This is an important source of data. They are masters of this that have done a lot, but it’s a limited source of data asking people. What do you believe? What do you think? Is a limited way to find out what’s going on in various places. And so there’s one set of critiques,

I won’t go into around how to get from individual responses to translated questionnaires, to the kind of arguments that they’re making. And I tend to think that these lose touch with historical and ethnographic and other kinds of understanding. So that’s methodologically. More basically in terms of the theory,

I find it very hard to understand why anyone would think modernization brings existential security. I think that modernization transforms the kinds of insecurities that people feel. So they may feel less afraid of walking in the forest. they may be less vulnerable to disastrous of crops, but there are new insecurities,

We worry about climate change. We worry about the impacts of nuclear power. But look at war, far more people have been killed by war in the modern era than in previous eras. The Englehart essay has an irony of it timing. That it comes in the context of COVID.

And the existential insecurity that people feel because of global plagues and infectious diseases. In many ways the story of modernity, as a story of growing existential security, was a story of some parts of the world. The wealthier countries in the West, over a period of time, ignoring the periodic disasters

Like World War I and World War II and so forth. And suggesting there’s this growth. And it has a basis. It’s not all false, right? Life expectancy grows. More people live to old age. They become professors of emeritus. They don’t die at 40. But the sense of insecurity is a cultural phenomenon,

As well as a material phenomenon. So you can point to life expectancy and say, therefore people ought to feel much more secure. But you have only to look around at the anger and the anxiety of so many people in the United States, and in other countries to realize that

They don’t automatically feel more secure. and they worry about things like, What will my old age be like? If I’m very sick, will I have money? Will I have life? Will I have friends? Will I have care? How will I get care? Will I get care only from people

Who speak a different language and are immigrants? Will that make me feel bad? Right? So there are a lot of ways in which this… Now I think that studying these dynamics of security and insecurity is very important. And we would find that social institutions are basic. That having strong public institutions,

But also strong communities, is very important to having a stronger sense of existential security. But the kind of generalization that Englehart makes there. is just unwarranted about this last point on that. It may be entirely true that there is a decline in people saying, I believe in God.

I don’t have evidence to the contrary. The question is what that means. And the question to me is whether this is simply a decline, a subtraction story in Charles Taylor’s sense. or a transformation story in which people still have some of the kinds of faith and understandings and desires for transcendence

And so forth that have been expressed largely in religious terms. But they’re coming to express them in different ways, and maybe new religions are forming. Maybe religion won’t be quite the right word for the new structures of seeking that emerge. But it’s not clear to me that we do very good job.

By just assuming there’s a fixed category religion, and imagining people falling away from it. Rather than asking what are the transformations within religion and beyond religion. – Good before we move to COVID-19 and its implications. and the lessons of the pandemic, global pandemic and global lessons.

Let me remind everybody that, in about 10, 15 minutes, we’ll end the conversation, and there will be a time for question and answer. 15, 20 minutes at least. And so you are welcome to write your questions. In the question and answer. And I will reserve them to give these questions to Craig.

And Craig will have the chance to respond. So let’s look at COVID-19. One of the things that strike me first, it was really the truly first global pandemic in the way, in which so quickly, became a global both in its effects, how rapidly it spread and its consciousness.

It started very similarly as the SARS epidemic. But the SARS epidemic basically was restricted to East Asia. and some Chinese diaspora communities. So in these we’d say was not a global, Although it started precisely the same way as the SARS epidemic. But second was the extent to which

The response has been a nationalistic in the anarchist nationalism. Individually nationalist response, rather than a communitarian nationalist response. Even the European Union, the first response was to end the sanguine open borders to close and goes back to the basically anarchy European Nation state. And so, on the one hand,

The paradox is precisely the global pandemic. shows the need for a global communitarian response to the pandemic. And yet the immediate response has been. Now, probably things are, there have been some corrections, was a very, very nationalistic one. So I want you to, What are the implications there for democracy, cosmopolitanism?

The things we’ve been discussing. What are the lessons from the pandemic? And specifically, I want you to ask about the effects and lessons for universities. We’ve been talking about universities, research institutions, obviously they are, as we know, under tremendous pressures, uncertainties, how can we proceed campus, colleges, universities? How can education continue?

So especially the issue of education, youth education, not so much the issue of research, not so much the issue of public knowledge that can be distributed. because obviously you can use online distribution. But especially the issue of getting youth together. to the process of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation.

So what are the implications for the university in the future? And anything else you want to talk about. – Okay, well it does open the door to everything. Let me begin really concretely though. The Coronavirus like stars, starts in China, but if it’s prototyped in China, it’s mass produced in the US.

So the big difference in the first instance, is the catastrophic bad US response. The first thing you have to look at in COVID is why did it go awry in the United States? And so Trump made initial responses like restricting travel from China, but then in various ways,

The US response has been incoherence, often anti-scientific and problematic sense. I won’t try to offer a detailed explanation, but you have to see the US as figuring very centrally in this story, the COVID story. In a way, it didn’t figure it in the SARS story. It did somewhat in the AIDS story.

Look at another global pandemic, but the US still has the most cases in the world. This six, seven months into it, eight months, it’s had a high death rate. Now there are other countries with high death rates and high infection rates. You’ve got to look at where Spain, of course,

The United Kingdom has a very high death rate. Brazil has a high infection rate. India now has a growing number, although the rates is still low. and we can look around the world. So it’s not that it’s just the US but the fact that one of the richest countries in the world.

With one of the most highly developed healthcare systems. and high tech healthcare systems, would have such a disaster, is an important clue for what’s going on in the pandemic. And it’s partly that it’s confronting weakened institutions and internal divisions that weaken response in these countries.

So you have a politicized response in the US. Whether do you wear a mask or don’t wear a mask, is a statement of political identity, instead of a public health precaution. Whether if children go back to school or not, is the dictated by the political considerations.

And so forth and so on through a whole lot of responses. And that’s in many ways, true in several other countries. Countries with less political polarization. New Zealand or Germany have done better than countries with more political polarization. and countries that have been very neoliberal

In rolling back, their public institutions have done worse than countries with stronger public institutions. There’s a narrative that China would encourage that says this is a kind of referendum on democracy. China’s successful response shows that authoritarianism works. It’s not so clear, China’s initial problems showed that authoritarianism frightened people

From actually sharing the information about COVID in early days. And that helped to get going. And more over in line with our previous discussion in the US, in the United Kingdom and other countries, COVID confronts a degenerate form of democracy. Democracy has already been undermined. And so there are preexisting social conditions,

Just as there are for individuals pre-existing conditions. Like if you have a lung or heart disease, you have a much riskier time with COVID. For countries, high inequality, political polarization, damaged institutions, all shaped this. A couple of quick more points and I’ll turn to university. In this context, we see among other things,

A separation between the wellbeing of people and the wealth of economies. And so COVID is doing damage medically, but the COVID response is doing huge damage economically. And this is a complicated story. How much of that is necessary? The lock downs are a kind of blunt instrument. People would use testing and tracing

If countries had the capacity to do testing and tracing, but the United States didn’t have that capacity. The United Kingdom didn’t have that capacity more or less screwed up what it tried to use. So the blunt instrument of closure creates economic havoc. Who bears the pain of the economic havoc?

Not people like us who work at home. It’s inconvenient, and we can’t go out to cafes as much, but it’s actually a variety of working people. Who either lose their jobs, or who are forced to work in jobs, where they are exposed to COVID, and often paid very poorly.

Care workers, drivers, delivery workers, and so forth. So the COVID reveals some of the problems of societies in this sense. And I’ll be quick about the university, but ask more, if you want about it. There’s a very large story about how learning is affected. and the relative virtues of

Online versus in person learning. A lot of that has to do with the university as a social experience, not the university as an educational story. And there are losses, but I want to point to a few other factors. A lot of people debate online learning. as though there’s a choice between

Having small seminars at Georgetown, and having mass online classes. Well, most people didn’t get to go to Georgetown in the first place. And so the university system is highly heterogeneous. There’s not just the university. There are various different kinds of universities, scales of university. So what is online good for?

It’s good for access, right? It may or may not be as good for certain kinds of personal conversation and exchange and seminars. But if you didn’t have access to those seminars, you didn’t lose in the online transition. So online can be okay. There’s a whole story about proximity,

But there’s a second story that I think is more basic. It’s not about learning. It’s not about research. It’s about finance and about the upheaval in the economic basis of universities as knowledge institutions. Will they be able to employ the professors they have in the past?

Will they be able to support the libraries? Will they be able to provide the context for knowledge? And if they aren’t right? What kind of transformation will take place? It’s like the story of religion, they won’t just go away. There will be change. But what will that change be?

Will it be for profit providers? Will it be a consolidation which there are smaller number of bigger universities, that are effective in deploying the technology? How will we manage this? But we will not go back to universities as, before. There are too many ways in which the COVID experience

Has exposed patterns of change, including budgetary issues that will tempt administrators to keep going down some other paths. – Well, thank you very much, Craig. Let’s open the session for the question and answer from the audience. I have a list of questions already. Let’s see how many we can get at.

There is first a question Robert Neigh, writes, Steven Pinker says that relative to a number of people, violence and death in war is decreasing. Same with gruesome punishments. What is Dr. Calhoun’s response? Are we overcoming death and violence? – Right, so this is a reference to Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels” book.

I’m not fully persuaded by his empirical arguments. But I won’t take the time to go into details of why. I think there is some truth to it though. Even though I’m not fully persuaded, that is what I referred to by saying we have longer life expectancies. That’s one simple index of a reduction

In age adjusted death rates in reflects to violence. Now in response to this, though, I want to say a couple of things. First trends can be reversed. And even with gruesome punishments, we see Donald Trump bringing back the death penalty in the United States. It’s not necessarily true that there is

A one directional change that can never be reversed, which is more or less what Steven Pinker implies. Second, my main point was not about the physical risk of dying, but about existential insecurity. Englehart’s term, which is a term inevitably for how we feel. Do we feel secure? Let me use a simple example.

You may be healthy, but feel insecure. because you hear so much about the diseases around you, including COVID. So you feel at risk, even though you’re healthy, or you may feel insecure because you don’t have insurance, and you will have to rely on emergency rooms and substandard care and all that.

One of the things we saw in COVID was that, which hospital you went to was a big predictor of whether you lived or died. And the relatively poor areas of New York with publicly funded hospitals had higher death rates. People who could afford privately funded hospitals,

And other areas were more likely to survive. Now that can create a sense of insecurity. Even if on average, more people are surviving because we have hospitals for everybody. The inequality itself contributes to that. And there are other kinds of insecurities and risks. You may feel insecure because you’re not sure

If you can make your mortgage payment. That’s not a question of whether you will die necessarily, but it is a big existential insecurity. And as it happens, suicide rates are rising in the United States. And they’re rising particularly in certain populations. and partly for reasons like economic insecurity. So it’s absolutely true

That many kinds of material improvements in health and living conditions, sanitation, other things have taken place. But the kind of interpretation that has been based on that fact is misleading. – And a related question, which basically only needs a footnote come from Pat, What can human security theory

And the UN human security framework offer as insights for building and stabilizing a democracy? – Okay human security theory is basically the idea that there are a lot of different kinds of security as I was talking about. Not just whether you die in war. So traditional security, hard security,

Was all about war, we have all these other kinds. I think that this is important that human security is a very useful concept. It went out of vogue a bit. It was very popular in the late 20th century. After 2001, there was a return to talking mainly about hard security, terrorism and war,

Rather than broader human security. But I think broader human security is basic. and this is what we should be talking about. And we should connect it to the sustainable development goals. and the whole idea of a sustainable future. What makes for a sustainable future is not just the absence of war or terrorism,

But the presence of a variety of kinds of care for each other. Improved sanitation, improved environmental relations, greener infrastructures instead of resource intensive infrastructures and so forth. So if we extend human security into the environmental area, we’re really talking about something very basic that we can’t afford to leave out of discussions.

And I would link this also to something like the capabilities approach that Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum have pressed. That is the idea that we need to ask, whether people’s capabilities to do the things they want in their lives are being increased, in any path of development.

And I think this is an important question for this whole security and existential risk discussion too. – There is a question from Lasso Ramirez. on basically humanitarianism again, the limits and necessity humanitarianism globally. So the question is, do you think that NGOs run by secular and non-secular groups

Hinder rather than aid local communities as example, the white man’s burden, how this aid affect a country or a community’s economy, autonomy and viability and thinking of Haiti and the flooding of money and resources. – Great question. So there are problems with aid dependency, aid dependency tends to block

Some desirable paths of development inside countries, and tends to be very prone to problematic captures by governments. This doesn’t mean that all forms of aid are bad, but it means that being radically dependent on aid is problematic. I think humanitarianism represents, good values and efforts to have good actions

And it does good things, but it’s also an admission of failure. It is an admission that we haven’t in fact, reduced all the existential risks that Englehart is talking about. And to a certain extent, humanitarian action, reassures people in rich countries that the problems are often in other countries.

So people in Chicago can think the problems are in Haiti. And people in Los Angeles could think the problems are in Venezuela and so forth. So there’s an other arena of the sense of problem. Part of what we’re seeing now in this century since 2001,

Is the problems are in the rich countries too. The humanitarian issues cannot be seen as just third world issues. They are issues at home. And so we have to recognize increasingly what humanitarian discussion represses, which is that the global world system that you were talking about Jose, helps to produce these problems.

That it actively under develops some countries. That it creates problems. So it’s not just solutions. So humanitarianism is efforts by individuals and groups to put band-aids on problems, but it’s not solution to problems. I think the band-aids are good and they’re needed. The most basic moment of humanitarianism is refugees.

And we need a global regime of good treatment for refugees. We need each of our countries to give better treatment to refugees, but that doesn’t mean that we need all the things that call us refugees. It means we have to deal with it better. And the rich countries in the world have failed

The refugee test in recent years. You referred earlier to the nationalism in Europe and response to COVID or countries putting up walls, but already this was going on in response to immigration from 2015 on and from the financial crisis, the discourse in Europe immediately became a national discourse,

German started talking about those Greeks they’re profligate, those Southern Europeans, and it had a religious element. We Protestants saved those Catholics and Orthodox people. They don’t, this kind of thing, didn’t go away during the era of supposed secularization. – A question from Diane, How do you see the relationship

Between neoliberalism and religious ethnic nationalism, especially in the context of the argument that ethnic nationalist movements like Hindu nationalism in India are an expression of popular resentment, against increasing precocity in conditions of neoliberalism. – Okay, let me divide that into two parts. I think in general,

We have seen a huge spread of neoliberal thinking. in the world since the 1970s or so, that on the one hand, it involves stripping away the social support systems for people, the public institutions, undermining local communities making it harder for family members to care for each other.

So neo liberalism tends to privatize risk and throw people back on their own resources. Then people look for some other kinds of solidarity. Something to help them. Can ethnic nationalism appeal to some people as a way of dealing with the undermined support systems. Yes.

Is it necessarily an effective or good way of doing that? No. But we need to see nationalism as impart and attempt to find some sort of solidarity when other kinds of solidaristic institutions are being undermined or destroyed or attacked. I said two parts because the second part,

I have a slightly different view of India and of Modi, because I don’t think that the DJP is primarily a product of precarity among the relatively poor in India, lots of poor people, some of them support the BJP. I think first off, lots of the very Precarious poor

Are barely included in Indian politics. The BJP is big support comes from the middle classes, not from the most precarious and the mobs that are rallying may come from the poor, but it’s not the case that the middle class and the educated have rejected, so-called populism of Modi.

And so I think we have a kind of typical desire to think it is only the poor and uneducated. The same thing in America with Trump. Many people imagined, how could anyone with any education support Donald Trump? And that’s a question I’ve asked myself, because I think Trump is awful,

But I note a lot of his support comes from people with college degrees who live in suburbs. They have various interests, right? They are not just these sort of unwashed the downtrodden. There is a successful mobilization of many people who suffer with precarity, but there’s also a lot of calculation, right?

So evangelical Christians say, we can get some things we want from Donald Trump, in terms of future judges or whatever. And people who are rich say, we can get tax breaks. And Trump has dramatically reduced the taxes on the wealthy of the United States compared to everybody else.

And there are cynical calculations made by people who are not poor and the same, in various ways and in India. Well, I won’t belabor the point, but I think we should be cautious about imagining that the support for populism comes only from the ignorant. (indistinct) support for Modi is not coming

Because he’s in a precarious situation or ignorant. His brother does seem to be in a precarious situation now, but… – The next question comes from Sonya Sikas. and she writes, you mentioned the possibility of new formations, new patterns of seeking that express some of the same needs views, et cetera, as traditional religion,

But might not be described or describe themselves as a religion. I wonder if you could elaborate on where you see signs of such formations and how they deviate from traditional ideas of religion. – Okay, I will try to be really brief about this conscious of time, but I appoint to the rise of

Various kinds of self-help movements and movements in general, where people sort of sacrilege relationships, to Typology Gaia and so forth to certain kinds of other people in communal movements and all this, there are what would have been called seekers of a variety of kinds. And the heterogeneity is almost definitive of this.

People are looking. There are also Cults and people are joining Cults, and that’s not in my view, generally speaking a path forward, but it’s indicative of the number of people who are trying to find something, as a source of belief, but there are also right, let’s take this back to the core theme,

Ethno-nationalists, who are, sacralizing the nation. Who are seeking the kind of transcendence, that might have come from religious involvement in national involvement, right? And that’s also that kind of politicized national realism with a transcendent element, trying to replace religion is significant. – Let me put together three questions which are related,

And give you the chance to elaborate on the interconnections. There is a question coming from (indistinct) from sir Lanka and has to do with the waves of populism, and how many populace movements seem to ride, and the grievances of majority’s. State the cause about the tension between

The democracy being the rule of the majority, but liberal democracy has been there precisely to protect minorities from majority rules. So this is one of the problems. The other problem, the other question about democracy. (indistinct) writes, many great experience of democracy indeed seem to go backward. The examples are US and India.

People who are already skeptic with democracy are more frank now against the whole idea of democracy. How can one reassert the significance and the importance of democracy, is the only way of attaining political freedom and political arrangements. Are there alternatives or potential alternatives to democracy? And finally there is a more pessimistic question

About homo sapiens, the species having hit the limit of rational thinking and living. The rising types of nationalism, tribalism, populism, and religious fanaticism seems to have clearly dominated. This is in spite of profound insight from science, philosophy, et cetera. So you take it in any direction, these three come.

– Okay, I’m gonna go three, one, two. The last point, it seems to me is better stated as. We have tried to imagine human beings and human progress as a matter of rationality. And reason is certainly one of the human faculties we have,

But it was never the case that we were without affect, without emotion that our solidarity with others was only transactional based on reason, or even that knowledge was purely rational. and lacked standpoint and situation and so forth. So I think we are reaching the limits of a conception

Of human beings as defined by reason, and seeing the need to have a broader more complex view of human beings, that will also be one that makes it clearer to us. Why human beings matter in comparison to say artificial intelligence. Why do we care about human beings? Should we care about human beings?

Questions we need to answer. To the first question I can say very quickly, yes. The grievances of majorities are very central to contemporary populace but also to lots of the issues going on in the world. And they are partly grievances against minorities, and they think have unfairly benefited at their expense.

So, in the United States and some other rich countries, the resentment of immigrants is often expressed as they are living on welfare and we are paying taxes. But the resentment is often highest for successful immigrants. They are getting places at Harvard Medical School and I’m not, or my children are not.

And so we see a resentment focused on minorities. Second though, we see a resentment focused on elites. and the resentments of majorities that may scapegoat immigrants or people of color or other minorities are often deeply resentments of the established elites. who have presided over patterns of change that they don’t like, right?

So the people who have lost jobs due to de-industrialization in the context of globalization, are not necessarily politically economists who are analyzing the role of capital and private corporations, but they do notice things like, hey, this went on while Democrats were in office, it went on while Republicans were in office.

The whole elite political class didn’t care about people like us who were losing our jobs. And there’s a lot of truth to that, this one. Finally there is resentment of change itself. There are a lot of people whose resentments, whether they scapegoat minorities or they attack elites or whatever,

Their resentments are of the world changing, of not feeling familiar. And hence you have demands, Americans should speak English. We shouldn’t accept Spanish as a language or whatever. And pure gender is perhaps an important index. And the extent to which people on the populist right, are upset about changing gender roles,

Treating men and women. But we shouldn’t exclude the possibility that the elites, haven’t been very good elites. And that takes me to the second question. One of the things we should be struggling for is having better elites. We tend, we on the left, we who are Democrats.

So we need equality and I’m in favor of equality. But to the extent that we have elites or inequality, we need good elites. And we’ve had some pretty bad elites. And we have actually encouraged people to be bad elites. We’ve had ideologies like meritocracy,

That says you deserve to be part of the elite, because you did really well on your exams. And you went to a famous university. and those other people who aren’t part of the elite are less deserving. And so we’ve had a whole culture of encouraging elites not to be solidaristic towards non-elites.

And we’ve had elites who embraced this and said, well, look, the value of my house is going up. My kids are getting into the really good schools. Does it matter if it’s become more unequal in higher education? So after bad elites now, there is actually a political theory of good elites,

Republicanism, not the Republican party. But if you look at the founding of the United States. and most other democracies in the world. Most of the world’s enduring democracies are not just democracies, they’re republics, they are democratic republics. And what that means is that they embrace popular voice in government,

But they also embrace the rule of law. They also embrace a normative order of good elite leadership. And they embrace the rights of minorities, and including religious minorities. So, I think we need to remember, that democracy is not the only good, right? The rights of minorities, the rule of law are also good.

And part of the democratic project is trying to balance and integrate. The majority call for voice with the frameworks that ensure freedom, and majoritarianism does not ensure freedom. – Well, since we put these three last questions together, there about 10 new questions, which unfortunately will need to be left unanswered.

One of them is does capitalism have an alternative? And I would ask this person to read the book you’ve co-edited with. Immanuel Wallerstein, Michael Mann and Randall Collins, “Does capitalism have a Future?” and many other questions about pragmatic rationality. It’s an alternative to religion and so on.

Craig, thank you, thank you so much. What a wonderful enlightening, interesting conversation. on all kinds of related topics. And thank you for everybody for participating in this series. The next series will be a conversation. Then next episode will be a conversation with (indistinct) on global religious and secular dynamics.

And we’ll go from there. Thank you so much, Craig. Thank you everybody. And we’ll see you next time. – Thank you, Jose. And thanks to everybody.

#Religious #Secular #Sources #Democracy #Nationalism

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