RELIGION, 42(1):141–149, 2012. Paper abstract bibtex
Ananda Abeysekara's work revolves around the 'aporia of our democratic existence.' This review offers a close analysis of this puzzle and then connects it to the historical process whereby the internal dynamics of western Christianity gave shape to normative political theory. Normative political models have a peculiar relation to the empirical world. At any point, one can judge the factual empirical situation in a liberal democracy - no matter what that factual situation is - as deficient vis-a-vis norms like equality, freedom of expression, religious freedom and separation of church and state. The trouble is that we do not know what the 'complete' fulfillment of these norms would look like. Still, these norms propel political analysis: as Abeysekara notes, classical and postcolonial studies of conflict in Sri Lanka build on a set of deep-seated norms about 'difference,' 'unity' and 'humanism,' which have emerged from the Christian dynamic of universalization that laid the foundations of liberal political theory.