I feel like I can push back on your premise here, or at least offer a dissenting point of view.

Your idea, if I may submit a paraphrase, is that the issues at contention in the "culture war" are political in their essence, not "cultural" in some sense of opposition to "politics". Laws and speeches centered on behavioral restrictions or freedoms, national symbolism, identity, etc. are a necessary and appropriate part of politicking, and it is imperative that we engage with these matters in political terms. Having an "open society", like with democracy, just means that you have to be willing to compromise or to lose. Feel to correct me if I've mischaracterized you.

I have a different perspective on this. First, I would claim that we've gone through a remarkable cultural shift since the Industrial Revolution (partly presaged by the global mercantilism that preceded it) which is not just a difference in economics and technology. All of the many aspects of our social systems -- culture, politics, law, art, economics, religion, etc. -- have *differentiated* themselves from one another in an unprecedented way. In agrarian societies, various social practices of different types would form a highly coherent "package" that defined each society within the bounds of some time period and geography. Cultures are never totally monolithic, so the details have always been mutable for a good portion of the population, but the unity of the "package" was critical to a well-functioning society. Industrialization and globalization have blasted these things apart into each their own orbit, although certainly independent spheres can be understood to interact. An "open society" is exactly the society which seeks to keep different aspects society from becoming confused and tangled out of this differentiated state.

I highly recommend Mark Lilla's excellent book, "The Stillborn God" as a point of reference to this argument. His thesis is that, starting from Hobbes, there has been a consistent program in European and American societies to separate political ideology (and by extension, political institutions and processes) from theology (and by extension, religion). He traces this development up to the doorstep of WWII.

I wrote a long paper a few years ago which charts a similar development in our conceptions of laws and rights. My interest was less in the history of American or other legal systems, and more in how our underlying concepts about how laws and rights apply to individuals have shifted from identifying the individual as a member of a political or social class to identifying the individual as an individual. And American Constitutionalism happens to coincide (fortuitously?) with the first phase of the Industrial Revolution in Britain. You can read it on Researchgate:


My second claim is that the "culture war" is borne out of a mis-placed yearning for spiritual or religious expression. Humans have a deep need for participative rituals, and traditional religions, particularly Christianity, just are not adequate to the demands of contemporary society. The politicization of evangelicals in this country is a sign of rot and putrefaction, not a future that most people want to inhabit if they could see the outcome now. In this view, the problem with the "culture war" is that it is NOT, actually, political OR religious, but politics pretending to be religion or vice versa. Because these now-differentiated spheres of social activity can still be mingled in practice, we can produce a hybrid political theology of sorts, but it ends up just being the stupidest version of both those things rolled together. I wrote about this problem, and my proposed solution at length in an article published by Arc this March:


So, my recommendation on the politics of the "culture war" is to message to the masses how the whole imbroglio is unutterably asinine and cynical, in the hopes they will realize that they should take their lives more seriously.

I'm curious to hear how or if you might disagree with these ideas.

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