Voices FIVE


Initially, at least the story I would tell is a success story: my three nations, India, Israel, and Algeria, were indeed liberated from foreign rule. At the same time, however, the states that now exist are not the states envisioned by the original leaders and intellectuals of the national liberation movements, and the moral/political culture of these states, their inner life, so to speak, is not at all what their founders expected. One difference is central to my analysis, and I will keep coming back to it: all three movements were secular, committed, indeed, to an explicitly secular project, and yet in the states that they created a politics rooted in what we can loosely call fundamentalist religion is today very powerful. In three different countries, with three different religions, the timetable was remarkably similar: roughly twenty to thirty years after independence, the secular state was challenged by a militant religious movement. This unexpected outcome is a central feature of the paradox of national liberation.

From: Walzer’s The Paradox of Liberation: Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolutions

James G. Chappel

The great philosopher Richard Rorty once sighed that religion was a conversation-stopper: If someone claims to be acting for religious reasons, what is there to say? If he were alive today, he would know that if we cease talking about religion, we start shouting about it.

From: Chappel’s Holy Wars, Secularism and the invention of religion.


Today, “anarchism” seems harmless, almost quaint, something you might associate with ex-hippies, former punks and wild-haired loners scrawling anti-establishment manifestos in cabins off the grid. But in its heyday, anarchism promoted a broadly appealing vision of a free, stateless society. Delegates at the International Anarchist Congress in 1881 adopted the strategy of “propaganda by deed” — in a word, terrorism — to achieve it.

A single attack could “make more propaganda than thousands of pamphlets,” said the anarchist philosopher Peter Kropotkin, and anarchists carried out dozens. They committed a string of high-profile assassinations the likes of which seem unimaginable today, killing the U.S. president, the French president, the Spanish prime minister, the king of Italy and the empress of Austria-Hungary in less than a decade.


From: Jasanoff’s NYTimes article, The first global terrorists were anarchists in the 1980s

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