September 02, 2013, 03:46 PM
How can present-day societies of status evolve into modern societies of contract, to use Henry Maine’s famous distinction? Weiner commends the example set by the liberal professions—especially his own. And while Weiner may be biased, there are numerous recent examples of law professionals providing heroic role models, from the brave Italian prosecutors who took on the Mafia in Sicily two decades ago to the Pakistani prosecutor recently assassinated on his way to charging that unhappy country’s former dictator.
Still, Weiner’s book raises more disturbing questions than it answers. For instance, how do we know that clannishness isn’t the wave of the future?
While Weiner emphasizes the positive benefits of modern states, they triumphed mostly because they were better at total war. As the years go by, though, the bravery of the men who sacrificed themselves for their countrymen at Gettysburg or the Bulge seems less replicable. Likewise, some of us old-timers remember when space exploration was expected to become “the moral equivalent of war.” The Enterprise’s Captain James Kirk was modeled directly upon the Endeavour’s Captain James Cook, that symbol of meritocratic advancement from farm boy to explorer of the Enlightenment.
In a mostly peaceful and earthbound 21st-century, however, why not instead connive to advance your family at the expense of your fellow citizens? Thus, the immigration debate is being conducted in the press as if the entire “citizenist” notion of Americans having responsibilities to their fellow citizens just because they are their fellow citizens is unimaginable.
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