Friday, January 13, 2006

Is the Culture War Ending?

After the Future thinks the culture warriors of both sides are off target:

I've believed for some time that the religious right is fighting an enemy in secularism that is now a paper tiger. The culture war between the religious right and the secular left has more to do with the past than the future--it was a modern battle, and we are no longer moderns. It seems to be a fight that people who undertake it enjoy because it makes them feel as though they stand for something, but it's as pointless as standing for monarchy.

We are entering an era in which anything goes--we're already in it. It's an era in which there will be no consensus about anything, and people will believe pretty much whatever they want, whatever suits them. The human mind is ingenious and endlessly inventive. It can come up with the cleverest ways to justify the most absurd ideas. All any argument needs is a splinter of truth, and with it an elaborate fortress of delusion can be built...

The problem with this arguement is that you have to be a post-modernist in order to buy it--you have to believe that there is no common space for dialogue between disconnected worldviews. And that is precisely the assertion under debate, between the Western liberal tradition and fundamentalists of all stripes. Liberal democrats believe that space exists in the public sphere and that secular democratic processes can and should contain those debates; fundamentalists believe that their worldview should defeat the falsehoods of outsiders on its own terms.

It may be true that the only solution to the culture war is to show its premises to be absurd, but that synthesis will have to evolve out of the interaction among the players, not be imposed by a theory from the outside. In other words, sorry folks, we're going to have to keep talking about euthanasia, school prayer and abortion to people we disagree with for a very long time.

Hat tip to Ambivablog


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