Can’t We Just Be Civil? Jean-Jacques Rousseau and a Hellish Limit to Toleration

Greg Marcar is a research affiliate at the Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI), University of Otago (New Zealand), where he is also a teaching fellow within the Theology program. This post is based in part on his chapter “Doubtful Civil Belief: Or, Tolerating One’s Damned Neighbours with Jean-Jacques Rousseau,” in Security, Religion, and the Rule of Law: International Perspectives (Routledge 2023).

Introduction

It has become clichéd—though no less accurate—to point out that we live in divisive times, with disparate societal groups becoming increasingly intolerant toward one another. In a 2016 interview, American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt postulates that the level of socio-political civility society within countries such as the United States has reached its lowest point since the nineteenth century.[1] This is not to claim that the depth of current social malaise is unprecedented. As Teresa Bejan (whose work is discussed below) notes, the conceptual ancestry of “toleration” discourse itself may be traced to a much more fractious point in history: namely, fifteenth-century Europe.[2] This caveat notwithstanding, it seems an apropos time to revisit an old political and philosophical issue: how should society and the State approach the issue of diversity in peoples’ fundamental beliefs? This is important because the identitarian flavor of today’s incivility/intolerance perhaps more closely resembles the religious dissension of the fifteenth century than we like to admit.

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The Need of Trust-Building in a Future, Post-coup Myanmar

Seng Mai Aung is the program officer for Myanmar at the Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) and received her JD from the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, in 2023. This post originally appeared on the Institute for Global Engagement blog, 17 January 2024.

Background

Achieving unity poses the greatest challenge for Myanmar, given the systemic division among diverse religious and ethnic groups that has persisted during seven decades of military rule. Myanmar has existed in seclusion, tightly controlling information and manipulating narratives to underscore the military’s role in preserving “unity” among the populace. This division functions like a contagious virus, spreading throughout the community and undermining trust between Myanmar’s various ethnic and religious groups.

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Why Did the Israeli Supreme Court Strike Down Judicial Reform? Commentary by Ori Aronson

On 1 January 2024, the Israeli Supreme Court in its longest-ever judgment struck down a highly controversial law passed by Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in its attempts to limit the judicial branch. Bar-Ilan University Professor Ori Aronson comments on the main issues of the case, explains the role in this decision of the October 2023 deadly Hamas attack on Israel, and elaborates on whether the government and the right-wing coalition in the Knesset will respect it.

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