This book gathered together work that I had undertaken over a three year period ending in 2001 that had been funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust under the rubric of Action for Transformation within the Centre for Human Ecology. The main work is Land, Power and National Identity, which was written at the request of Dr Dmitry Lvov, then Academician and Secretary of the Department of Economics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow. Via Fred Harrison he had invited me to address the Academy and also theologians at the Holy Trinity Sergiev Monastery on the spirituality of land reform in February 2000. Click these links to see pictures from the seminars and Russian iconographic images that Verene and I photographed while on that memorable Moscow trip.
As Healing Nationhood is almost out of print (as of 2009), and much of the material has now been incorporated into my later books, I have made the entire contents available via the listing given below. Further down this page is also the Introduction by the Rev Ian Fraser (formerly of the World Council of Churches), a Foreword to the Russian translated text of Land, Power and National Identity by Fred Harrison (Centre for Land Policy Studies), and an Afterword by Dr Bashir Maan.
Land, Power & National Identity
was translated into Russian by the Land & Public Welfare Foundation, St.
Petersburg, and circulated in academic and Russian Orthodox Church circles by
the Economics Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, in January
2000. The text here contains only very minor amendments of what was translated.
Isle of Eigg Trust Launch Address
was delivered on 25 October 1991. Afterwards the residents of Eigg gave the
Trust a 73% vote of confidence in a 100% secret ballot turnout. In 1997 they
successfully brought the island into community ownership. This address was first
published in full as, ‘A collector’s
item’ or community ownership – the Isle of Eigg debate, in The
Edinburgh Review (Issue 88, 1992, pp. 158-162).
Address to the Council of the
Scottish Landowners’ Federation was delivered on 10 June 1998.
Abbreviated versions were published in both The
Big Issue and The Guardian
(London, 22 July 1998, p. 4 (Society)). In raising the point that God, and not
landowners, theoretically owns Scotland’s feudal land the debate on feudal
reform legislation in the Scottish Parliament was expanded to incorporate
awareness that the Crown, as paramount feudal superior, has a justifiable
platform upon which to represent the public interest.
Tide Must Turn for Fishing Communities was
written jointly with David Thomson, a former staff member of the Food and Agriculture
Organisation of the United Nations, who has served as a fisheries consultant in
over 50 countries. It suggests that oceans as well as the land should be managed
in the community interest, and was first published in The
Herald (Glasgow, 17 December 1998, p. 17).
Geopoetics and Biodiversity in Celtic
was commissioned by the United Nations
Environment Programme. It proposes “cultural psychotherapies” to address
intergenerational cultural trauma and was first published as Psychospiritual
effects of biodiversity loss in Celtic culture and its contemporary geopoetic
restoration in Cultural and Spiritual
Values of Biodiversity: a Complementary Contribution to the Global Biodiversity
Assessment (UNEP &
Intermediate Technology Publications, London, 1999, pp. 480-483).
Power, Pornography and a Nation’s
explores some roots of
psychopathological expressions of power. It was first published as an essay, Wounded
childhoods form bullies with bullets, in Scotland
on Sunday (Edinburgh, 27 October 1996, p. 20).
Beyond Academentia – The Idea of a University was first published as Root of all knowledge cast out on a limb in Scotland on Sunday (Edinburgh, 2 June 1996, p. 20) as the Centre for Human Ecology spun out of Edinburgh University to preserve what a New Scientist editorial (4 May 1996) called “a tradition of fearless inquiry.” For details of the MSc degree in human ecology at the independent CHE see .
Towards an Inclusive Sense of Belonging
was delivered as Soil
and Soul in the British Telecom sponsored “Cultural Reflections” lecture
series of the Edinburgh International Festival, 1999. It was first published in
essay form, As a Gaelic proverb says: The
bonds of milk are stronger than the bonds of blood, in The Herald (Glasgow, 7 August 1999, p. 15).
This is a unique collection of writings on liberation
theology and social activism as applied, broadly, to nation-building. The main
piece of work, published here in English for the first time, was instigated by
some of Russia’s most senior economists and theologians. Other articles range
from the address that launched land reform on the Isle of Eigg to essays in
national newspapers and work commissioned by the United Nations Environment
Programme. Common to all is the question of how we can create a three-way sense
of community – with place and nature, with one another in society, and with
those aspects of inner life that we might relate to in terms of “God.”
an executive of the World Council of Churches I was responsible for one of the
five programmes decided on at the Uppsala Assembly in 1968, Participation
in Change. I directed my work to the grassroots, starting in Asia, living,
eating, sleeping in the homes of the poor to find how they were coping with the
vast changes of our century. There I made vivid contact with small Christian
communities – “born from below,” not fashioned “from above.” I
concluded that the most commanding theological issue worldwide concerned the
ownership and use of land.
me, theology is the faith-basis for changing history in the direction of the
Kingdom of God. Scholarship can be done behind desks and within walls. Not
theology. Theology demands engagement, in which scholarship forms an ingredient.
that underpins the fight for justice has a compelling quality which abstract
theology of the past has lacked. For the celebration of the first anniversary of
the success of the revolution in Nicaragua, I stayed with Xabier Gorostiaga in
the Jesuit centre in Managua. Fidel Castro had come to participate. He sent a
messenger to ask Xabier to provide a list of theological books he should be
reading. Xabier did so. Next day the messenger was back. Fidel had already read
all these. What else should he be reading?
is in this kind of company that I would place Alastair McIntosh. He has the
qualities of a liberation theologian. He does careful research – his use of
the Bible is particularly sensitive. He is engaged where it matters – with
rural land use, with the urban poor and in advancing democratic process.
text is about the “healing of the nations”; this text is a landmark.
by Fred Harrison, Centre for Land Policy Studies, London
May 1999 I attended a bizarre hearing in Stirling Sheriff Court to write a
report for the journal, Land
and Liberty. Alastair McIntosh was helping to defend low-income evicted
tenants - the “Carbeth Hutters” – on the grounds that God theoretically
owns the land under Scots feudal law, therefore it should be used for community
benefit.[i] As a consultant on land reform to the Natural Resources Committee of
the Russian parliament - the Duma - and as co-chair of the Duma Parliamentary
Hearings on Land Policy
in 1999, I was struck by the relevance of Alastair’s insights to Russia.
drew the matter to the attention of Dr Dmitry Lvov, Academician-Secretary of the
Department of Economics at the Russian Academy of Sciences. Lvov is one of
Russia’s most respected economists. He had come to acknowledge that the
integration of land, spirituality and community empowerment was a precondition
for re-building national identity. In recognition of this, he was helping to
launch a new movement called Science
& Religion. He urged me to invite Alastair to prepare a document for
discussion by senior academic, religious and political figures.[ii]
two weeks (to meet a tight translator’s deadline), Alastair had produced Land,
Power and National Identity – a text which, he says, “is not polished,
but represents ‘doing theology’ in the real world.” In February 2000 I
accompanied him to seminars at Lvov’s office at the Academy of Sciences, in
the Holy Trinity Sergyev Monastery, and at the Duma with Sergei Glasyev, a
Deputy who chairs the powerful parliamentary Economics Committee.
response was overwhelmingly positive. Dr Sergei Shirokov, a leading Orthodox
theologian, and Professor Eduard Afanaslev, dean of economics at the Russian
Orthodox University both called it “divine providence.” Dr Mikhail
Gelvanovsky, director of the National Institute for Development, said: “Man
alone cannot save this country, but with God's help maybe we can.”
Tatiana Roskoshnaya, Executive Director of the Land & Public Welfare
St Petersburg, spoke for many in concluding: “This text penetrates deeply into
the Biblical economic principle that ‘The profit of the Earth is for all.’
As such, it draws on the wealth of our own spiritual traditions. It suggests a
third way between communism and capitalism - one where land ownership and the
benefits from rent are vested substantially in the community.”
can but concur and add my voice in warm commendation.
by Dr Bashir Maan, Glasgow Islamic Centre
Bashir Maan is a distinguished British Muslim of Pakistani origin. He is
the Scottish Representative on the Executive of the Muslim Council of
Great Britain and Spokesperson for the Glasgow Islamic Centre. For 8
years he was Chairman of the Glasgow Central Mosque Committee. As an
elected city councillor, he chairs the Strathclyde Joint Police Board -
Britain’s second-largest police force. Since 1991 he has worked
informally with Alastair McIntosh on Islam-Christian relations. In this
Afterword he briefly sets land economics in an Islamic context.
It is a cause of both hope and pleasure to me that in presenting a Christian appraisal of “Land, Power and National Identity,” Alastair McIntosh has shown respect for all faiths that understand love to be central to the nature of God.
Christianity and Islam have a lot in common and yet they have been locked in hostility to each other for over a milennium. Indeed, Islam is the continuation of Judaism and Christianity. The Qur’an contains a vast number of events, stories and injunctions from the New and Old Testaments.
To cite just one example to emphasise this close relationship, the Qur’an says, “Say: we believe in God almighty and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus and to all other Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we submit (Surah 3:84).
The time has come when these two largest religions of the world should forget the past and join hands to work for the preservation and freedom of practice of their respective faiths and for the good of God’s creation at large, otherwise they are both in danger of being engulfed by the fast-rising tide of secularism and materialism.
The Islamic economic position is very akin to the Biblical one. It puts great emphasis on the distribution of wealth in a way that is fair as well as practical and productive. According to the Qur’an, land and wealth in all its forms is a thing created by Allah and is His property. The right of ownership over something that accrues to a person is delegated to him by Allah.
A person, therefore, has the right to own land and property and to produce more wealth with it, but contrary to the capitalistic and materialistic economic system, Islamic economics requires that this wealth must be shared also by others: that is, by the poor and the needy, the sick and disabled, the orphans and widows, the destitute and all other creatures of this earth.
With such common humane ideals Islam and Christianity can give hope to the impoverished and deprived amongst humanity. I therefore commend this work by Alastair McIntosh. It suggests that the points around which people of faith can unite may be closer to the will of God than those issues which, too often, have been used to divide us.
[i] See McIntosh 2000.
[ii] The Academicians focussed discussion around five points: 1) Moral and spiritual elements of economic relations of the modern world, 2) Christian understandings of economy and public welfare, 3) Relationship between law and religion as it might affect state economic policy, 4) The modern financial economy from a Christian point of view, and 5) The problem of “sustainable development” from a Christian point of view.