This is a short clip, and it reinforces themes that I've been exploring as a anti-liberal progressive. The solution doesn't lie with the market or with the state, as Milbank points out, but with society--i.e, in the cultural realm as it develops out of modernity and its desiccated imagination of reality.
Milbank's position is that modern Western secularism is a Christian heresy. Its basic presuppositions are deeply rooted in and indebted to the West's Christian heritage, but it has taken that heritage and distorted it in a way that has brought us to this desacralized, consumerist, fragmented neoliberal wasteland that shapes so profoundly the way in which we think and experience the world. The problem for politics, therefore, is framed by the problem posed by secularism.
So the thrust of Milbank's thought--and of Radical Orthodoxy in general--is to look at secularization as a mistake. He traces the mistake back to Duns Scotus and the late medieval nominalists who laid the foundation in thought for what later became the hard dualism nature and grace, which in turn led to a hard separation between the secular and the sacred, laying a foundation for what has become our experience of the separation between the public, objective, world of common experience on the one hand, and on the other, the world of personal subjective experience, the inner world of religious experience about which one cannot generalize.
He argues that the nominalist separating out the natural from the supernatural (grace) gradually replaced the older Christian Neoplatonic participatory imagination in which in which the natural and supernatural were inextricably enmeshed. Perhaps it was a mistake if one believes that the old Neoplatonic imagination is a better description about how things are, and I think it is and that it's something we've lost and that we have to recover. But I don't look at it as a tragedy, but rather something that had to happen, even if we must pay a price for it.
I would argue that it was inevitable because it reflected a different experience of the world that could no longer be robustly explained within the Neoplatonic participatory framework. The culture's intellectuals, who still thought of themselves as faithful Christians, simply didn't experience the world as an enmeshment of nature and grace. They wanted to keep believing, so they came up with alternative way to think about the world that they felt did a better job of explaining their experience while allowing a space for for God--out there--and faith--in here, within the individual subject's experience.
That it also created a space for the secular is an inevitable consequence, and that space no doubt has been invaded by many demons, but could it, should it have happened differently. I tend to think not. It may even have been a necessary thing, if you believe, as I do, that it was necessary for the human project to disembed from primitive shamanic or animist conssciousness. A participatory ontology makes sense in societies in which a shamanic embedded consciousness still persists. But that older embedded way of experiencing the world is destroyed by literacy--this is a bedrock insight of the McLuhanites, and I am persuaded by it. And so you'd have to persuade me that literacy and its benefits are a bad thing if you want to persuade me that secularism is.
Now I am personally very sympathetic to a Christian Neoplatonic ontology and epistemology. It makes sense to me and it solves lots of problems on a head level for me. But it does not represent my experience of the world, which is very, very austerely nominalist. A tree is simply a tree in my everyday experience of it, and its reality in my experience is not enhanced by the notion that it participates somehow in the mind of God. I like the idea that it does, but I don't expect anybody else to, at least not until there was some kind of shift in the collective consciousness. In other words we won't experience the world as participatory until our social imaginary changes in such a way that our thought resonates with our experience. How that happens is not something that can be argued for. It has to happen in a way similar to how westerners started seeing in three dimensions in the 15th century.
If McLuhan is right, we're moving into a post-literate society in which our interaction with new technologies is likely reprogram our brains in a way similar to the way the printing press and the ensuing explosion in literacy reprogrammed western brains five hundred years ago. Maybe he's not right. I don't know, but it's plausible. But one way or the other something has got to shift if there's to be any chance of a social imaginary that embraces a participatory ontology. Otherwise it's just an abstraction.