The politics of “the rule of law” and that of “God”

I am more and more convinced that there is no basic difference between what is commonly called “secular” and “divine” rule. And I’m stressing the political dimension of this. Its performative dimension. Of course religiously derived rule is “rule of law” too. But here I’m using the secular concept of “rule of law” as European enlightenment has convinced itself and convinced the colonized world that there is such a difference, between “human-based” rights, and ethics (turned into rules) derived from religious teachings. Secular rule derive legitimacy from the texts of men whereas religious rule (an invention that arose in reaction to the idea that ‘secular rule’ exists) derive legitimacy from the texts of God, and the words of prophets (let’s not even venture in the discussion that prophets are men).

But in both cases, it is the actual texts that authorize ruling (not men). Reading is interpreting and interpretation is always different depending on the historical context of the reading (if I want to summarize a very thorny theoretical issue!). Texts are read by men (of course ‘women’ too) and they assume a constant supremacy over them. Indeed the most important aspect of these texts at the legal level is this space where the text is held above men, which is the same in rules supposedly whether derived from men or ‘God’. It is assumed that texts change more often in content under a ‘man-based’ rule, and I’ll go with the assumption that it does, but the result is the same when the text is set during a specific period of time it is above immediate human judgment.

Now a little story that will illustrate only one application of what I am trying to say: If I cross the street in London when the green light is on for cars, taxi driver (those who probably are mostly used to follow ‘the law’ to the letter) would actually accelerate the speed of his car in a seeming attempt to hit you. In this instance, there is a brief time where the law supersede the ‘human condition’, where the possibility of killing is ‘ethically’ less condemnable because “he’s conforming to the law”. And in every human action the English system is mainly based on this all pervasiveness of the law. Every human action is sentenced by a rule, a role, that is made much more explicit and inscribed than in other systems of rule (my point is that the “God” predicament does not change much).

Actually most Nation-State’s rate of success (economically, socially, etc.) is measured according to how strongly the ‘rule of law’ is ‘respected’, to what extent it dominates human relation, over human’s ability to make instantaneous choices. The disciplinary extent of that can be quite pervasive: it is the flip side of the fictitious ideology of “Individualism”, “free will”, etc. So many times have I gotten the typical answer “Sorry we understand you, and although it is an exceptional case, we have to follow the procedure or else it will be against the Law”.

I would actually postulate that human-derived laws can be way more detrimental and ‘despotic’ than God derived ones at the very least because of this feeling of superiority that man has when he finds out that he’s the bearer of ‘the logos’, of the Verb. I will stop here so that it does not result in a long post. But these ideas will be developed at length in coming posts.

7 Replies to “The politics of “the rule of law” and that of “God””

  1. Thanks Razan.
    As for books there are not many really (not that I know of). But you could try to read the philosophy of Jacques Derrida on the question of textuality and the performative character of law.
    As for usual debates on secularism you have Talal Asad who still is I think the most interesting.

  2. Je me demande en quoi ça implique de l’arrogance d’intégrer l’idée qu’on est des bipèdes, et qu’on a besoin (ou pas, à débattre ! ) de règles pour vivre en communauté, tout comme les fourmis, les macaques, ou les pingouins.
    Supposer qu’il y’a quelque chose de supérieur, dont on ne peut questionner ou remettre en doute les ‘lois’ est nettement plus néfaste et débilisant.
    Supposer par ailleurs que certains d’entre nous sont plus aptes à ‘transmettre le message de Dieu’ (ie prêtres, pape, imam, et co) est certainement plus arrogant qu’un individu laic qui réfléchit simplement à des modes d’organisation de société.
    Da3o el iyam.

  3. Je me demande en quoi gnagnagnagna gnagnagnagna

    Supposer qu’il y’a gnagnagnagnagnagna gnagngna
    Supposer par ailleurs que gnagnagnagna gnagnagnagna


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