Any time a human being chooses to describe themselves as anything but a "human being", liberalism has been thwarted.
... The liberal subject is always merely that - he or she can have no group affiliation, no "sexual orientation", no gender in fact! As far as the state is concerned, each person is a "unit" and that is absolutely all.
This strikes me immediately as being oppressively inhuman. It takes away important aspects of the human experience, such as our existence as men and women and as members of particular ethnocultural traditions. It treats us merely as abstracted units, without a given nature and without the connection to history, people and place which we derive from "group affiliation".
So the question is why liberals like Fiore adopt this position. I've put a part of the answer often enough: that liberals have turned to individual autonomy as their prime good, and that this makes unchosen identities and inherited affiliations morally illegitimate.
Still, we then have to ask why autonomy should be adopted as the overriding goal. I've suggested that the liberal theory of being is faulty: liberals assume our distinction as human beings is that we can self-create who we are. This then means that to be fully human we must be, above all, autonomous, self-determining agents.
There's undoubtedly more to it, though. For instance, there's a variety of ways to arrive at the belief that transcendent goods either don't exist or can't be known. Once you arrive at this belief, then meaning has to be individually constructed or asserted. What then matters is our autonomy to individually construct our life's purpose.
Here is how one modernist thinker puts it (with admirable brevity):
We all find ourselves existing. Now we must all decide our own meaning or purpose.
A traditionalist wouldn't accept this. If you believe, as a traditionalist, that transcendent goods exist, and can be known (at least imperfectly), then it's not a case of constructing our own individual meaning (out of nothing), but of relating our own lives to these larger, objective goods.
As for David Fiore, he makes these claims:
Ideally, society is a pact between people that makes the existential struggle for meaning as pure as possible.
... If, as I (and all non-pantheists) believe, we have no access to the noumenal, then two thousand years of tradition are as useless to us in ascertaining what is "right" as the word of any living, breathing person.
The message here seems to be that we can't know, and that therefore longstanding cultures embodying the ideals of generations past cannot point to important truths.
Why should Western intellectuals come to deny transcendent goods? It's possible that it has to do with a modernist project to make knowledge certain - to the same degree that knowledge in the natural sciences is made certain. As Jim Kalb recently put it, there is a modernist preference for directing reason to things that are "clear, distinct and verifiable".
It's a project which not only leaves out those areas of knowledge which can't be made distinct along scientific lines, but which also often ends in a profound scepticism about our ability to know the external world at all.
Finally, I'd like to quote a small part of Jim Kalb's reply to David Fiore. It focuses on a particular issue - the likelihood of liberalism achieving social cohesion - but also sets out in condensed form a general outline of liberalism:
As you seem to say, liberalism understands man as essentially an ego with thoughts and desires but no particular qualities that are relevant to what he is. He has no binding connection to anyone in particular. His connection to his next door neighbor shouldn't weigh more for him than his connection to someone in Borneo. He can't assume that he shares any common goods with others. He does have the abstract realization that everyone else is in the same position, and he'd agree that it would be better for all men to get what they want than otherwise.
So I suppose the question is how much social cohesion can arise out of such abstract realizations. Not a lot, it seems to me ...