The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions
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Many of the successful campaigns for national liberation in the years following World War II were initially based on democratic and secular ideals. Once established, however, the newly independent nations had to deal with entirely unexpected religious fierceness. Michael Walzer, one of America’s foremost political thinkers, examines this perplexing trend by studying India, Israel, and Algeria, three nations whose founding principles and institutions have been sharply attacked by three completely different groups of religious revivalists: Hindu militants, ultra-Orthodox Jews and messianic Zionists, and Islamic radicals. In his provocative, well-reasoned discussion, Walzer asks, Why have these secular democratic movements been unable to reproduce their political culture beyond one or two generations? In a postscript, he compares the difficulties of contemporary secularism to the successful establishment of secular politics in the early American republic—thereby making an argument for American exceptionalism but gravely noting that we may be less exceptional today.
there, and also a delegation from Chaim Weizmann’s Democratic Faction; the early socialists, Labor Zionists from the Second Aliyah, the future hegemonic group, would be a large presence; and a few of the Mizrahi rabbis, the Orthodox minority who supported the Zionist project, would attend.1 Most of these people, I believe, would not think that their hopes had been fully realized. The state as it is today would not match their vision; even the political Zionists, who were often said to want
laws.13 From a political standpoint, the sacred geography of the Jews should have worried him more, but he had little sense of that either until the Uganda controversy erupted. Accounts of his conversations with British officials suggest that he argued for as much autonomy as he could get in a Ugandan setting; the setting itself was of less importance to him. And yet sacred geography was one feature of exilic culture that neither he nor any of the other Ugandans (later they called themselves
ancient values.” But, he said, “if they are the conquerors, I am the conquered … Sometimes I feel that I am killing myself.”37 The secularists did not kill themselves; they still rule over much of Israeli culture if not over Israeli politics. But their hegemony is precarious these days. They can no longer bridge the secular/religious dichotomy that is a central effect of radical negation. “Secular” describes the people for whom the exile has indeed been negated; “religious,” those for whom it
“only really successful revolution is … a migration.”13 But the same sense of starting over is present in all the cases of national liberation, even if the new beginning is in an old place. Of course, this newness encounters resistance, which begins as a stubborn allegiance to the-way-things-have-always-been but soon becomes ideological and therefore also new: fundamentalism and ultra-Orthodoxy are both modernist reactions to attempts at modernist transformation. The slogan of Jewish
13, 130 Hamilton, Alexander, 137 Hansen, Thomas Blom, 92 Haredim. See Ultra-Orthodoxy (Jewish) Hartman, David, 46, 127 Hartz, Louis, 8, 135 Hauptman, Judith, 159n34 Hazaz, Haim, 45 Hegemony, theory of, 124–25 Hertzberg, Arthur, 64 Herzl, Theodor, 17, 34–35, 39, 130, 151n7 and Uganda, 40–43 Hinduism, 4, 7, 78, 81, 111, 112–13 premodern, 79, 105, 107 Hindutva, 21, 29–31, 78–82, 92, 105–9, 114. See also Religious revivalism Horne, Alastair, 13 Hutchinson, Thomas, 139–40 Indian