To Die for the Empty Constitution
56 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012 Last revised: 24 Aug 2015
Date Written: April 19, 2012
Liberal scholars have claimed that United States, as the paradigmatic liberal state, is neutral toward the question of the meaning of life. In his work over the last decade, Paul Kahn has argued that this picture of America is flawed: a state that sends its sons and daughters to kill and be killed cannot be truly neutral towards this question. Americans, according to Kahn, find meaning in and through their constitutional identity, which is based on the notion of self-sovereignty. In other words, they die for the ability to self-author their political meaning. I argue that Kahn’s picture of America is flawed. Empirical evidence show that the majority of Americans are not interested in political meaning, and they certainly do not want to self-author their constitutional identity. Seen through the current controlling paradigm of thin liberalism, American constitutional identity has become impoverished and cannot offer a sense of meaning. Thus, it cannot give an adequate answer to the question of self-sacrifice. I further argue that the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street movements rose from an anxiety that stems from this impoverishment of American identity.
Keywords: constitutional identity, political theology, liberalism, Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, social imaginary
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