Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Two Huntingtons

James Ceaser discusses the two Sam Huntingtons and finds them both deficient. The first Huntington characterizes America by "the basic principles of individual rights and government by consent of the governed as these are drawn from universal arguments, such as can be found 'most notably in the Declaration of Independence.' The Creed claims to make its appeal to rational precept (to 'nature'), which is in principle available to all people. (It is curious that Huntington selects the term 'creed' to refer to this dimension, as the word evokes powerful connotations of acceptance on the basis of faith.)"

The second Huntington is enamored of culture. Ceaser remarks, "Culture, as any social scientist knows, is a most useful concept until one is confronted with the task of having to say exactly what it means. Huntington does his best, defining it at one point as "a people's language, religious beliefs, social and political values, assumptions as to what is right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate, and to the objective institutions and behavioral patterns that reflect these subjective elements"--in brief, nearly everything. But Huntington boils the concept down, as he must, and culture comes to refer to language (English), to religion (sometimes "dissenting Protestantism," sometimes, more broadly, "the Christian religion"), and to a few basic English ideas of liberty. America's culture, in Huntington's shorthand, is "Anglo-Protestantism."

The question for Ceaser is whether political science is or can devise "a higher regulative principle that might somehow subsume these two in a more rational account."

Update, 4/28/2004 -- Rich Lowry's more unqualified praise of Huntington betrays his lack of understanding of the issues at stake, for Huntington grows increasingly disatisfied with the "Creed." But can one defend or even recognize America without Huntington's "Creed" (government by consent, separation of powers, the protection of minority rights)?


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