(First Things) George Weigel—Is History Really Over?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From the perspective of Catholic social doctrine, democratic self-governance is not inevitable, it’s only possible; and its possibility can never be taken for granted. Even established democracies can decay, to the point where what Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism”—the use of coercive state power to impose regimes of lifestyle libertinism in the name of tolerance, while marginalizing those who object in the name of classic moral truths—becomes a real and disturbing possibility. That possibility is well advanced in parts of Europe. It cannot be ruled out in the United States.

It takes a certain critical mass of citizens, living certain habits of mind and heart, to make democracy and the free economy work properly. The formation of those habits is an essential task of the free associations of civil society, and the Church plays a critical role in shaping the moral understandings that animate those free associations. “History” continues because the task of forming the virtuous citizens that make freedom work never ends.

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2 Comments
Posted August 17, 2014 at 5:00 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Ad Orientem wrote:

George Weigel is a smart guy. But he has drunk deep from the well of the Whig Theory of History and his writings tend to reflect that prejudice.

August 17, 1:22 pm | [comment link]
2. Sarah wrote:

Ad Orientem—isn’t Weigel actually protesting Fukuyama’s rather sunny [and non-Christian] version of the Whig theory?  Fukuyama is claiming that the democratic republic is the “inevitable end” as human beings every rise, ever grow, ever-civilize [heh] and Weigel appears to be protesting that, as in “democratic self-governance is not inevitable, it’s only possible; and its possibility can never be taken for granted.”

Obviously, I agree with Weigel!  I don’t think human history reveals that human beings inevitably produce improved versions of governance—I think human beings basically exemplify both the Fall and the image of God, with occasional, gracious spasms of sanity intruding on the course of entropy. 

I feel very blessed to live in a constitutional republic with an ordered system of government. But I know it’s not really “normal” for most of history.

August 19, 9:25 am | [comment link]
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