"The questions that confront the Northern democracies require detailed attention to the structures of authority which undergird their unruly democratic culture: can democracy avoid corruption by mass communication? Can individual liberty be protected from technological manipulation? Can civil rights be safeguarded without surrendering democratic control to arbitrarily appointed courts? Or stable market-conditions without surrending control to arbitrarily appointed bankers? Can punishment be humane and still satisfy the social conscience? Can international justice be protected by threat of nuclear devastation? Can ethnic, cultural and linguistic communities assert their identities without oppressing individual freedoms? Can a democracy contain the urge to excessive consumption of natural resources? Can the handicapped, the elderly and the unborn be protected against the exercise of liberty demanded by the strong, the articulate and the middle-aged? Should the nation-state yield place to large, market-defined governmental conglomerates? These are the questions that political theology, in its self-conscious forms, is most notable for never addressing."
Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of the Nations (CUP, 1996), 14.Putting to one side the typical northern bias in calling these "Northern" issues, O'Donovan seems to have identified a number of the key pressure points in contemporary politics. I doubt this list is intended to be exhaustive, but it is certainly exhausting to consider them all. Are there particular questions that grab your attention and hold your interest?
For me, one abiding interest of the last few years has been the question of over-consumption of "natural resources", a.k.a "food" (and water and shelter and the means of producing them). This question - the sustainability of the material bases of society - is part of what has led me to Edinburgh to study.
What is the relationship between surviving and thriving? Bertold Brecht once said "food first, then ethics", thereby prioritising survival over lesser ethical concerns. Everything is justified in order to stay alive. Is this true? Is it true for individuals? For groups? For nation-states? When the chips are down, is it every man for himself? Is the Joker right: when the chips are down, will civilised people eat each other?