Posted by: rogermitchell | June 7, 2021

what does the future hold?

I’m all masked up and behaving myself! I’m on my first train journey since the beginning of the pandemic, travelling to the burial of my last remaining close relative from my mother’s generation, her sister in law, my aunt. I now belong to the generation of the “great uncle”! Here in the UK we are living with the unknowns of the maybe “post-pandemic” era, but maybe not, given the ferocity of the delta variant. Nevertheless the rollout of vaccinations so far seems defining for the UK at least. (I’m fully vaccinated with Pfizer jab and have been very well so far throughout the lockdowns and since). Right now I am reading the current edition of the New Statesman on the theme of the “Return of the West” and the article by Jeremy Cliffe on that topic. He suggests three possibilities for the West. His analysis of the history and character of the West isn’t bad from the perspective of my own thesis (see Church, Gospel and Empire, How the Politics of Sovereignty Impregnated the West, Wipf & Stock, 2011, and The Fall of the Church, Wipf & Stock, 2013). He recognises its rootedness in Greece and Rome, the rise of Judaeo Christian culture in Europe via Renaissance, Enlightenment and the rise of the modern state. He doesn’t offer any critical approach to sovereignty but sets out the history pretty clearly.

Cliffe positions his article, not surprisingly, in the context of the G7 summit being held between the 11th and 13th June in Cornwall, UK. Looking forward from the summit, he imagines three scenarios for the West: the gloomy one: permanent decline, in which China dominates and the West turns inward to self preservation, or maybe even into conflict with China; an upbeat one: in which there is a reassertion of Western strengths with green industries renewing its economies and societies while China experiences internal strains resulting in more of a balance between East and West; and finally a middle ground in which aspects of Western values and power endure but others fragment, leading to a more “Eurasian” Europe drawn into China’s economic orbit midway between China and America, and resulting in debates over whether the West is a values led project or an exclusivist, civilisational one. Not unexpectedly, he opts for the middle-ground as the most likely and which he regards as a better bet than self-pity and declinism. The West may be doomed to retreat, but given “there is no way of knowing that for sure”, as he puts it, and doom scenarios may be self-fulfilling, one might as well hope for the best. A pretty lame conclusion you will probably agree!

But what if we go with my thesis that the West is the progeny of empire, the culmination of the mistaken choice of sovereignty as the way to peace? And what if the sovereignty of nation state capitalism is destined to go the same way as the sovereignty of nation state communism did in the former USSR, as Sue and I argued in our book Target Europe (Sovereign World, 2001)? In which case both China and the West are going to unravel together with populism, autocracy and the rest of the sovereignty forms of government. But does it follow that the consequent confusion is bound to increase into ever greater chaos? I think not. But our response can’t be a shallow resumption of hope.

As I have argued now in many posts, books, chapters, articles and podcasts, the answer resides in the politics of love that the gospel Jesus enacts and many related sources in world religion and human history echo. I love the message of the Old Testament book of Daniel that the testimony of Jesus draws on its announcement of the kingdom of God, and that friends of this blog and The Kenarchy Journal have configured as kenarchy. The dreams of the emperor Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel saw and interpreted decreed the eventual end of empire and its sovereign power. They conceived instead, not ultimate chaos, but the ascendancy of the progeny of love. This is not a vain hope today. Rather, the politics of love are on the increase in our cities and localities (see my article “What Are the Politics of Love?” in the Global Discourse Journal: Cultivating New Postsecular Political Space, Taylor & Francis, 2018, & Routledge, 2019 ). This is my faith, rooted in a past and present messianism: love will triumph in and through the chaos. Don’t give up. This is what we were made for!



  1. Brilliant

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