Localism, Tribalism, and Personalism

A beginnings of a possible answer came while reading chapters of Emmanuel Mounier’s Personalism during a class in political philosophy at Campion College Australia. In that book, Mounier suggested that a healthy localism required not only a mere geographical register. The geographical preference only makes sense, he argued, when that preference is also directed towards a concrete person, a person that is not just a mind but also a body. In Mounier’s words “I cannot think without being and I cannot be without my body”. To paraphrase, it is impossible to think about a person’s existence without taking into account that person’s embodiment.

But brakes do not reversals make. Bulwarks do not advance, and a person as a bulwark against abstraction is an inadequate vehicle to reverse the enclosure that tribalism brings about. The embodied person must also be an agent of transformation of such enclosure. Once again, Mounier begins his thoughts on such a transformation with reference to the embodiment of the person. The body, being in space, thrusts the person outwards, Mounier wrote. Moreover, love thrusts the person outwards and also opens the person to another, welcoming the other as a good rather than a threat. Thus, if love expresses the truest nature of the embodied human person, the embodied human person is not meant to clench up into a self-contained fortress. Rather, the embodied person’s truest nature is expressed in openness, not to the person in the abstract, but to another concrete embodied person, our nearest neighbour. In the words of Personalism, a person’s truest nature consists in “decentralizing itself in order to become available for others” (20). This opening renders the borders of the community porous, where even the outsider is simultaneously a neighbour to be embraced as a good to the community. Conversely one’s love of the community should be but a preparation of an opening of oneself up towards others both within and beyond the borders of a community.

This anthropological point of opening up representing a person’s truest nature, is continued at a metaphysical level by David L. Schindler. In his Ordering Love, Schindler spoke about how a universe was created by a self-sufficient God who paradoxically expresses His godhead in a Trinitarian dance of self-emptying by one person into another. Given that opening up and emptying oneself is so radically built into the nature of the Godhead the universe, made in the image of God, could only be created as an act of love, making love the ordering principle of the universe.


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