Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Independence, authority, and the Catholic and Protestant spirits

One of the themes I like to return to is the anthropology of division. Why, and in what sense, to people really disagree, and what is the form of disgreement that more truly subsists beneath the claims made by opposing parties? With the current round of political jockeying, this question comes back to me, only now with a silghtly different angle.

A common theme in politics is the purported dispute between those who favor a strong central authority for as wide a sphere of influence as possible, versus those who favor either more localized authorities or else weak authority, emphasizing the individual.

In American politics, I believe that the parties are mischaricatured as the authoritarian - Republican and the anti-authoritarian - Democrat. In truth, both parties make strong claims to restricting the authority of the federal government in different spheres.

Economic Social Foreign Policy
Republican Party Little-no authority State authority Interventionist
Democratic Party Federal authority Little-no authority Relative non-interventionist

I know the above is baby-dribble to a political scientist. It also doesn't tell the whole story. Republicans have pushed for federal control over social issues--however, abortion isn't one of them (overturning Roe v Wade would not make abortion illegal; it would only make it a states-rights issue).

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