Thursday, May 27, 2010

Modern Monarchy and the Boston Globe

Recently The Boston Globe published an interesting reflection on the place of monarchs in the modern world, Saved by the crown. From violent protests in Thailand to parliamentary politics in Britain and Belgium, the role of the Crown has attracted attention in recent months. If people like Council on Foreign Relations Fellow Joshua Kurlantzick (who doesn't exactly seem like a monarchist but at least understands that contemporary constitutional monarchs can be more than decorations) are taking monarchy seriously, that's an encouraging sign.

It's unfortunate that these days Monarchy is likely to be defended only in terms of what it can do for Democracy and Modernity, but that's probably the best monarchists can expect from a mainstream publication such as the Globe. I do not, of course, agree with all of the article's assumptions, particularly the astonishing claim that "where kings and sultans still actually rule...monarchs can be every bit as oppressive and opaque as any other dictatorship." On the contrary, I think it's a pretty fair generalization that with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia (probably my least favorite current monarchy), throughout the Muslim world it is the monarchies that consistently are and have been the most reasonable regimes, from both non-Muslim and female perspectives, and even Saudi Arabia's current King Abdullah is not without his relatively progressive initiatives, as the article admits.

As far as Europe is concerned, it's worth noting that the arguably problematic "Constitutional Monarchs Help Facilitate Democracy and Multiculturalism" defense is one reason why many right-wingers today have no interest in monarchy. I myself would confess to be less than entirely comfortable with modern European royalty's apparent acquiescence to the massive changes being imposed on their societies via mass immigration, not to mention other troubling developments such as the emasculation and destruction of the House of Lords in Britain. But it's nevertheless a legitimate point that, like it or or not, these situations have been brought about by governments elected by the peoples of those countries, and the royals really have no choice but to make the best of them. Perhaps constitutional monarchy in countries like Sweden and the Netherlands really will be the glue that prevents immigration from having the most dire consequences feared by many on the Right and somehow makes modern Europe work in spite of itself.

If that's the case, people (especially politicians) in former monarchies from Serbia to Laos would do well to pay attention to The Boston Globe. For what this article proves is that one need not be a reactionary alienated from modernity and its democratic values to see the value of kings and queens. On many fronts, pure traditionalists frankly have lost, and reversal seems unlikely. But if the advantages of restoration of monarchy can be appreciated even from a generally modernist perspective, there is no reason to give up on this particular front. Symbols matter, and are worth fighting for, even--or perhaps especially--if they mean different things to different people. So whether you see the Crown as the embodiment of the traditional civilisation you nostalgically prefer to the present, or as an effective tool for addressing the problems of modernity capable of endless reinvention and adaptation, or even some combination of the two, join the fight for the restoration and preservation of monarchies! Even The Boston Globe understands.


LAW Wells said...

I disagree that traditionalism has lost for good. The fight is still there to be won, because how many traditions have we abandoned simply because they were traditional, and not because they were bad. There is nothing wrong with the Latin Rite except that it is an older tradition. Ditto for monarchy and aristocracy.

Certainly, traditionalists aren't going to be able to immediately turn the table, but ultimately, as more and more failures of the new traditions become apparent, our chorus of "Told you so" will eventually be too loud to ignore. This is just one such case (the unifying influence of monarchy is one of the finest points in its favour as a system of government).

IDIOT face said...

At last people are starting to get the positives of monarchies!
Slowly and surely!