Tony Blair on Faith and Globalization

So if you are a student at Yale this semester you can take a course with Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Now it isn’t that uncommon for former politicians to teach university courses, but it is unusual for the rest of us to be able to virtually sit in these courses. Here is the YouTube clip of Blair’s first lecture. It starts about 20 minutes into the clip, after a long introduction by Miroslav Volf.

So, what to make of Blair’s course? The topics are interesting and are exactly those topics which concern many anthropologists: faith, globalization, identity, etc. (Blair recently “came out” as a Catholic.) Unfortunately, I can’t imagine any student staying awake in this class. Neither Volf nor Blair seems to have much to say about these topics except for vague platitudes. I thought that watching this would give me an opportunity to say something interesting and/or critical about Blair’s take on these topics from an anthropological point of view – but I honestly didn’t hear anything worth commenting on. He sees globalization as a force which “opens up” society and religious faith as capable of either aiding or hindering that opening up … depending (not quite sure on what).

I almost deleted this post, but then I thought it might be worth posting it to see if anyone has anything more insightful to say about it than I do. And who knows, maybe the course will get more interesting later on…

4 thoughts on “Tony Blair on Faith and Globalization

  1. LOL: “We can break down faith to three parts when we describe it objectively in our world.”

    Wow, Blair’s portion was so bad it could have been spoken by Sarah Palin. I do think, however, that Volf looked like he had something to contribute, but held himself back to remain in the background to Blair’s high-profile rep.

    All in all, a hilarious 39 minutes.

  2. I don’t know what it is with politicians, in general, but most don’t seem to have anything new or insightful to say. I think the political process is much at fault. For the most part, politicians are legislators-pushing bills through to make new laws, and the intricacies of gaining support and modifying legislation to appeal to a wide body consumes so much of their energies. Platitudes (bites, etc, that play well to the base)are the end result. We are having a federal election in Canada at this moment, and not one of the parties is coming up with anything new, interesting, or sends a ruch of blood through your veins. It’s all aimed at targeted audiences, and hopefully (from a party’s point of view)shredding the opposing parties votes. If you ever listen to past politicians talk (Mulroney, Chretien in Canada) all you get is insights into political manouvering, polls and strategies for parilmentary debates. So I’m not too surprised by Blair’s sort of blandness of globalization etc; however, I would be interested in what Blair has to say on how to make the political process work in terms of globalization etc.

  3. The course has been presented to Yale in a very top-down sort of way. For one thing, Blair clearly sees globalization as inevitable and religious dogma as a parochial force (therefore implicitly premodern, given the inevitability of globalization). The implied message to students is something like: only if you, young leaders, take it upon yourselves to engage in rational, moderate interfaith dialogue will our world move forward.

    I applied for the class on a whim, because I figured that a class for which they considered me qualified (my coursework has focused on globalization) might be a class worth taking. I didn’t get in and given the top-down, rationalistic bias of the course I’m sure that’s a good thing.

  4. I think the main thing this shows is that Universities like marketing gimmicks, which is what this is. The chances of Blair having something profound to say are about the same as my hens laying golden eggs – anybody who’d read a sample of his speeches, interviews, etc could have told you that. Sure, he’s done a lot to cause people from a particular religious group to feel alienated, and joined another religious group in an act of breathtaking double-facedness considering how contrary to the teaching of that religious group he ran during his time in office. So he himself is an interesting case study in ‘faith’ as it plays out on the global stage. But I can think of thousands of people better qualified to talk on this topic. Why are they not asked to give a lecture course, and Blair is? Because it’s a nice bit of publicity for Yale. I just hope that this came out of the advertising budget rather than the budget for teaching on the subjects of religion or globalisation.

Comments are closed.