The Left, patriotism, and threats to the constitutionalorder
RJLipkin at aol.com
RJLipkin at aol.com
Fri Jan 27 23:17:23 PST 2006
With respect to my position at least, I think Eugene's remarks are
inapposite. The notion of "American patriotism" might be ambiguous like "fascism," but
that's not my complaint. (Indeed, I don't think our quarrels about
"fascism" are typically over its meaning. Instead, I think it's over its application
which often assumes a particular meaning but quarrels over who deserves to
be included in the class of fascists.) The logical form of "fascism" and
"American patriotism" are different. The latter requires, inter alia an object
of commitment, and that object needs to be specified and defended.
Similarly, characterizing patriotism as the "love of one's country
-- in this instance, the USA -- and not of some abstract attachment to
constitutional principles of which the most emotionally salient ones (liberty and
equality, not the Electoral College or even federalism) are aspired to in many
countries" misses the point in two central ways: (1) what is the USA in
contradistinction to "some abstract attachment to constitutional principles"? and
(2) the fact that other countries aspire to liberty and equality is
irrelevant to these critical terms in their instantiation in American history. If
these concepts are the objects of my patriotism it is not a commitment to the
French pursuit of liberty and equality, but the American pursuit. These
concepts can be regarded abstractly as professional political philosophers do or
concretely as American constitutionalists and more importantly American citizens
do. My commitment to these values involves the story of our independence
from the domination of a particular monarch and the struggle against an
abhorrent form of social and economic organization, slavery. I value abstract liberty
and equality highly, but my commitment to the instantiation of these
concepts in American forms of life might be something for which I am willing do die.
Eugene and I differ in that he is committed to what he calls "love
of nation," and he seems to desire to leave that as a primitive term, an
unanalyzed given. Indeed, it seems, although I might have misread him here, that
patriotism as love of nation derives its value, for Eugene, precisely because
it is an unanalyzable given. So in the end, the problem is not so much that
"American patriotism" is ambiguous, or that its object must be specified.
Rather, the difference, at least between Eugene's view and my own, is that he
regards patriotism to be love of country, and contends that someone who asks
for more, misunderstands that patriotism is a primitive term and its special
force derives from its status as a primitive term. I, on the other hand, have
seen patriotism as a primitive term used as a bludgeon. And indeed, insisting
on unanalyzable givens, by its very nature, lends itself to such use.
Therefore, my notion of the logic of patriotism insists of rejecting patriotism as
an unanalyzable given, and to insist that the term is unhelpful without
specifying its object.
The gulp here is wide. Because just when I ask for the object of a
proposed conception of patriotism or assert that my sense of patriotism
refers to a commitment to the contextual development of certain values in a
particular historical setting, Eugene seems to be saying that asking form such
answers is precisely what misses the point of patriotism because in his view
patriotism as love of nation is to be explicated no further. Although explication
of any term or concept must come to an end at some point, in my view, Eugene
seems to reject the pursuit of explicating the term "American patriotism" ab
initio. While I resist primitive terms in political and constitutional
philosophy, at least as far as possible, Eugene seems to insist that in this case
one fails to understand patriotism or patriotism as love of country if one
requires analyzing its meaning beyond its status as a primitive term.
American patriotism as an analytically sound constitutional
term--one relevant to among other things questions about secession--cannot do the
work it's designed to do without first deciding whether its a primitive term or
not. And if it's not, the question of explicating its meaning is unavoidable.
Robert Justin Lipkin
Professor of Law
Widener University School of Law
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the Conlawprof