NS: Another aspect of modern liberalism—and liberal religion—that you’ve been critical of is so-called sexual liberation. Why do you call this, which many people consider an advance of liberty, fascism?
JM: In one sense, the freeing of sex from the law has always been implied by Christianity; the 1960s’ “liberation” remains an event within Christian history. At the same time, what one saw here was a kind of democratization and commercialization of “bohemian” morals, which had themselves earlier been newly legitimated and normalized for an elite, as Phillip Blond has pointed out. The problem here is that self-pleasure can become either explicitly or tacitly a goal in itself. When the romantics earlier spoke of the importance of marriage being “free,” that seems to me nearer the mark, as a goal. Human fulfillment lies more in the direction of faithful love and inserting oneself in the continuity of generations. Marriage and the family, for all their corruption and misuse, are at base democratic institutions. Fascism for me comes into the picture because I think (following Adorno, amongst others) that the gradual separation of sex from procreation is regarded naively if we do not realize that this is what the state wants. Covertly, it wants to secure “Malthusian” control over reproduction and to deal with the individual directly, rather than through the mediation of couples. Much of liberal feminism is actually, in practice, on the side of economic and political neoliberalism. It is too rarely noticed that sexual permissiveness has today become a kind of opiate that covertly reconciles people to the loss of other freedoms—both in relation to the state and to the workplace.
NS: Does this mean that the progress of feminism, as well as of sexual minorities, should be rolled back?
JM: What we need is not a return to former legal coercion and social ostracism in the sexual field, but a change in ethos, which will promote both relational fidelity and the encouragement of human creativity and participation in the workplace and in civil life. As part of this, I think it is important both to support gay civil partnerships and yet to oppose the idea of “gay marriage.” Many more gay people in Europe approve of this combination than do in the US
Democracy can only be sustained when there is a parallel, non-democratic concern with paideia—the formation of good character—which links talent to virtue and both to positions of appropriate social influence. Without the extra-democratic inculcation of character, democracy cannot enter into the debate about the good, which is the only legitimate and non-corrupt debate that can be held.
NS: What are the sources of this character? Are they necessarily Christian ones?
JM: Red Tories and Blue Labourites reject both the deontology of the right and the utilitarianism of the left in favor of the view that state, society, and economy must all see their role as the building up of individual and relational flourishing—of honor and virtue. The mediating role of religious bodies in all this clearly must be crucial. We hope that many Muslims and Jews, as well as Christians, will embrace a return to the politics of the Good, rooted both in the Bible and in classical antiquity. It is this legacy, re-thought and democratized (in keeping with biblical impulses), which alone can now save Europe, America, and the world. [!!]
(Her). Merk også at Milbank er med på ei ny bok om sekularisme, ei bok som drøftar Taylors Secular Age. Her: