Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 1 December 2023

 Nulla salus sine ecclesia. There is no safety outside the Church. This mediaeval injunction was valid – had force – only until the Church held both temporal and spiritual power. With the secularization of Western societies, it became the role of the nation-State to assume responsibility for the salus publica – for public safety. In return for the loyalty of its subjects, the State would guarantee their security. If the anarchy of mediaeval upheavals and weak dynasties meant that silent leges inter armas (the laws are silent between weapons), the stabilization and consolidation of the State turned this other motto into its obverse: silent armas inter leges – weapons lay still when laws are enforced. The State then comes to possess a monopoly over the use of violence within its boundaries. It becomes a deus mortalis – the mortal descendant of God on earth. 

  

The legitimacy of the State rests on a contractus unionis that is in large part a contractus subjectionis. When this legitimacy fails, social cohesion disintegrates and the result is either anarchy or even a failed State. A sense of the State – an awareness on the part of subjects or citizens – that their “health”, their security (salus) rest solely on the legitimacy, authority and power of the State is integral to the preservation of civil society. The status civilis and the status politicus are entirely interdependent.  

  

The problem with capitalism is that its ideology – liberalism – shares the delusion that it is possible to separate neatly, or at least secure an osmotic relation, between the Political and the Economic – whence came the origin and the foundations of Political Economy once the capitalist bourgeoisie took the reins of the State in Western societies. This ideology assumed, but never could show, let alone prove, that so long as citizens “go about their business” – the business of endless acquisition and enrichment – their beliefs, convictions, values and devotion could be left to the public sphere, the sphere of public opinion.  

  

Thus came about the intellectually neat separation of the political from the economic. But this equilibrium could not last because the economic cannot be separated from the political: the economic is simply a specific mode of behaviour, of social action that depends entirely on shared values and understandings. It is not just the distribution of income or equality of opportunity that determines the cohesion of a society, of a nation – because income and opportunities are indissolubly enmeshed with social values that either underpin or else dissolve the public sphere. 

  

What decrees the crisis we are experiencing in the West in the delusional age of globalization is precisely the inability of both ruling elites and ruled citizenry to comprehend that social coherence, a sense of the State, the sense of security are essential for representative government, for the honouring of the contractus unionis. This is what the Left, or people who presume to espouse and advance its values and principles, have failed to understand: they have lost the sense of the State. – Which is why “the centre cannot hold”, and “things fall apart”. 

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