Upon closer inspection, Western civilization evinces a divergence within itself. It proves to comprise two blocs, with opposing agendas and opposing ideologies. The one bloc is located within the Anglo-American orbit, the other within the orbit of Continental Europe.
This explains the drive toward European Union. The EU gives formal shape to this ideological coherence among the Continental European nations.
By the same token, it explains the drive toward “Brexit” in the United Kingdom, the UK being part of the Anglo-American orbit.
This perspective opens the door to understanding the dynamic of global politics. Far from being a case of the “West versus the Rest,” the global political dynamic is driven by this divergence within Western civilization itself. The drive toward global governance, universal jurisdiction, the normalization of the sexual revolution, the climate change agenda, are all expressions, not of the rest of the world, but of the West, and within the West, of the Continental European bloc.
As such, this is a question of how we are to understand the law of nations: what is sovereignty, and where is it located?
This also explains why the USA inevitably stands in the way of the Continental European agenda. Its tradition, its ideology, is fundamentally other, and the two cannot be reconciled.
This also explains unrelenting anti-Americanism even in the USA itself, propagated by media, academia, even political parties. The ideological split runs right through American society itself, weakening it from within. For the one tradition is home-grown, the other is imported.
How are we to explain this divergence? Where did these two opposing orientations come from? What more can be said about their conflict, and what will be the result of it?
These are the questions raised in A Common Law. Published on the 20th anniversary of the first edition, this second edition includes the first edition in its entirety, and supplements it with running commentary as well as additional material bringing the issues forward to the situation post-2016.
Two figures engaged in this debate, acting as signposts at the crossroads which materialized in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, when a decision loomed and a path had not yet irrevocably been embarked upon. They functioned at the time and place destined to be the stage upon which this decision would become apparent: in and around the Dutch Republic in its struggle for freedom from the Spanish monarchy. They shared the same inheritance, constraints, and influences; the one fashioned it in a way that proved a resounding success which would be received as orthodoxy, the framework of right-thinking people for centuries to come; the other in a way that, although offering a coherent and constructive alternative, languished in obscurity, only in our day receiving renewed interest from the scattered flock of academics and churchmen (and women) who either make the knowledge of such things their business, or share a wistfulness for and inkling of this world we have lost.
The one is Hugo Grotius, world renowned, the so-called “Father of International Law.” Although the appropriateness of such an appellation has been drawn into well-deserved doubt in our time, what should not be in doubt is the paradigmatic role his work played in the course of our civilization. Grotius fashioned the synthesis of the socio-political-legal-constitutional materials, the harvest of centuries of scholarship, into the familiar modern shape, which this book will explore in extenso. It is his path that was chosen, his seed which has now reached harvest time.
The other is Johannes Althusius, forgotten by the Enlightenment but restored to honor in the 19th century by the German “revivalist” of associationalism Otto von Gierke. Althusius drew on the same source materials as Grotius to fashion his own synthesis of political, legal, and constitutional thought, a synthesis which then fell into abeyance as its competitor synthesis triumphed, but which in our day has enjoyed a renaissance that promises a theoretical renewal of our understanding of constitutionalism and the rule of law.
These two men encapsulate the conflict of Western civilization. The path of the one was taken, the path of the other eschewed, the path of rationalist individualism instead of the path of communitarian associationalism, the path of Grotius instead of the path of Althusius. It is their achievements which are elucidated in this book.
A Summer Reading Pick for President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg
From a renowned historian comes a groundbreaking narrative of humanity’s creation and evolution—a #1 international bestseller—that explores the ways in which biology and history have defined us and enhanced our understanding of what it means to be “human.”
One hundred thousand years ago, at least six different species of humans inhabited Earth. Yet today there is only one—homo sapiens. What happened to the others? And what may happen to us?
Most books about the history of humanity pursue either a historical or a biological approach, but Dr. Yuval Noah Harari breaks the mold with this highly original book that begins about 70,000 years ago with the appearance of modern cognition. From examining the role evolving humans have played in the global ecosystem to charting the rise of empires, Sapiens integrates history and science to reconsider accepted narratives, connect past developments with contemporary concerns, and examine specific events within the context of larger ideas.
Dr. Harari also compels us to look ahead, because over the last few decades humans have begun to bend laws of natural selection that have governed life for the past four billion years. We are acquiring the ability to design not only the world around us, but also ourselves. Where is this leading us, and what do we want to become?
Featuring 27 photographs, 6 maps, and 25 illustrations/diagrams, this provocative and insightful work is sure to spark debate and is essential reading for aficionados of Jared Diamond, James Gleick, Matt Ridley, Robert Wright, and Sharon Moalem.