Four Favorite Quotes from Lutz/Kendall/Carey

“To put this another way, Eric Voegelin has taught us that what we are in the habit of calling the political tradition of a people is above all a matter of its self-interpretation (from moment to moment, from decade to decade, from century to century) from the beginning to the end of its existence as a people.  It is a matter, therefore, of a people’s own understanding of its place in the constitution of being and of its role in history, of what it calls upon itself to be and do as it lives its life as a political society–a matter, in short, of the symbols by which it represents or interprets itself to itself”–Kendall/Carey, Basic Symbols, 1970.

“Regimes that are merely external relations of command and obedience are, we perceive, inherently unstable and short-lived; thus, a moment inevitably comes in the life of any emergent society when it begins to think of itself as what Voegelin terms a little world of meaning all its own, with such and such a relation to the other little worlds of meaning around it, and to a great world of meaning, the meaning for it becomes, to use Voegelin’s vocabulary, the ‘mode and condition’ of their self-realization as human beings; or, as another great political philosopher [Leo Strauss] of our day would put it, it becomes their regime, their way of life, illuminated for them in due course by rites and myths, symbolic in character, that express their relation as human beings first to each other, then to the political authority whose commands they obey, and then, finally, to that, be it God or higher law or the music of the spheres, which is above and beyond all human beings.”–Kendell/Carey, Basic Symbols, 1970.

“Political analysis should start with a people’s attempt at self-definition or self-interpretation, and this is most likely to be found in their political documents and political writing.  At some point, if a political system is to endure, a people must constitute themselves as a people by achieving a shared psychological state in which they recognize themselves as engaged in a common enterprise and as bound together by widely held values, interests, and goals.  It is this sharing, this basis for their being a people rather than an aggregate of individuals, that constitutes the beginning point for political analysis.  Essentially a people share symbols and myths that provide meaning to their existence together and link them to some transcendent order.”–Don Lutz, The Origins of American Constitutionalism, 1988.

“Far from being the repository of irrationality, these shared symbols and myths are the basis upon which collective rational action is possible.  Since these myths and symbols are frequently expressed in political documents, they tend to structure the form, determine the content, and define the meaning of the words in these documents.”–Don Lutz, Origins of American Constitutionalism, 1988

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