Liberation Theology and the Liberal Society

Liberation Theology and the Liberal Society

Liberation Theology and the Liberal Society

Liberation Theology and the Liberal Society

Excerpt

The purpose of the Summer Institute of 1985 was to open a public dialogue between the two forms of liberation theology in the Americas, the "liberation theology" of Latin America and the liberal society of North America. This has been a longstanding dream of the Center for Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy at AEI. As a start, in 1981 we published a set of widely used essays, Liberation South, Liberation North, linking the two approaches to liberation.

Once again as he did for our 1984 conference, Latin America: Dependency or Interdependence? (AEI, 1985), Professor William Glade sets the stage with a fair-minded and generous paper on the current situation of political economy in the Americas. He offers criticism both of liberationists and of liberals, pointing out weaknesses of language and analysis in both. He also draws out several complicating factors in the dialogue, marks out some common ground, and in the end discerns an opening "for an unprecedented constructive dialogue between liberation's structuralism and liberal political economy, with more hope than ever before that both theory and policy—not to mention Latin Americans themselves—will benefit therefrom."

Hugo Assmann's paper fulfilled one of Glade's hopes directly; he set forth his case in terms that allow for a significant degree of empirical verification. When the debate between liberation theologians and those who support the liberal society is conducted with empirical reference, there are at least two good effects: first, one can be more certain whether both are speaking of the same concrete realities; second, one can try to establish which descriptions of reality are more correct. These are admirable gains.

Another critical gain was achieved by Dr. Assmann's emphasis upon democracy. Even more in his oral summary than in his paper, Dr. Assmann stressed the difference between the situation of the past fifteen years and today. Then there was domestic "repression" under dictatorships of various sorts (he himself had been exiled from Brazil for a dozen years). Today, in many countries in which the major libera-

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