The Dynamics of the Archaic

Since the Ronald Reagan years, there is objective collusion in U.S. politics between religious archaism and market fundamentalism. How did this dynamic come to be and what makes it so powerful?

This post belongs to a reading series of Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon S. Wolin. For quick access to all chapters, please click here.

Disclaimer: This chapter summary is personal work and an invitation to read the book itself for a detailed view of all the author’s ideas.

According to a thorough study published in 2017about Americans’ religious identity, more than one-third (35%) of all Republicans identify as white evangelical Protestants, and three-quarters (73%) belong to a white Christian religious group.1 Even though white evangelicals represent roughly 15% of the population, their energetic activism has a definite influence on public policies and plays a pivotal role in elections. As shown in the table below, 84% voted for the Republican candidate in 2020.

The dynamics of the archaic in US politics: Religious groups' voting patterns in the U.S.
Religious groups’ voting patterns in the U.S.

The reason why Evangelicals have embraced the Republican political establishment may seem unclear at first, particularly given the expectations of high-tech marvels and unbridled capitalism professed by the GOP. This unholy alliance between two kinds of fundamentalism has worked pretty well, nevertheless, since Ronald Reagan thought it would be an appropriate strategic move on the part of political conservatives. As Sheldon Wolin notes, “The American zest for change coexists with fervent political and religious convictions that bind the identity of the believers to two ‘fundamentals,’ the texts of the Constitution and the Bible and their status as unchanging and universal truths.” The contradiction is thus only apparent. This chapter examines how constitutional and religious archaisms bind with market fundamentalism in their quest for power.

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  1. America’s Changing Religious Identity, Public Religion Research Institute, Daniel Cox, Robert P. Jones, 09.06.2017
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