We live in a social order in which there is no higher good recognised, but only the individual and his desires. What is supposed to matter is that individuals have the autonomy to pursue these desires and that individual desires are treated as equally valid. Society is to be organised centrally along clear and rational lines to put these principles into effect.
It is a view of society which is shared by nearly everyone in the political class. It has been a dominant orthodoxy now for many years. And yet, there are people born into this social order who come to the realisation that things are wrong - that something is seriously out of order.
What triggers this doubt about liberal modernity?
A) The arts
As a teenager I had a love for the high arts, in particular, for classical music, painting and poetry. I was very much struck, though, by the obvious decline in the high arts, beginning in the early twentieth century.
Where were the Bachs and Beethovens of my own time? The Europe of the past was poorer and less populated. It was supposed to be more backward. And yet it produced a wealth of great composers - a whole tradition of high art - which fell away during the 1900s.
Why hasn't liberal modernity produced high culture? One reason, perhaps, is that if we only recognise man and his desires, with no higher order toward which man aspires, then there is nothing for a high culture to successfully orient itself to.
And if there is no higher order for art to orient itself to, then anything can be art. What, for instance, was voted the most influential piece of modern art by the British art establishment? Marcel Duchamp's "Fountain" of 1917 - a urinal.
There is something seriously wrong with a culture which puts forward a urinal as its most influential artwork. This is a clear sign that liberal modernity is deeply flawed and won't produce a worthwhile civilisation.
How are relationships between men and women in an advanced liberal society? Are things organised efficiently so that we get what we want (which is what liberal modernity claims to do as a matter of principle).
The answer is no. One problem is that there is too great a sense that men and women have competing interests. Another is that there is too little encouragement for men and women to live up to the best of their masculinity and femininity. Nor is our culture protective enough of the emotions through which men and women come to love and trust each other.
A lot of young men and women, trying to find the right partner, are likely to conclude that things are not as they are meant to be.
It's not surprising that things have gone wrong. If we only see things in terms of individual desires, then how can we legitimately make claims on others? It's only if we see relationships as a higher good, toward which we should orient ourselves, that we can better fit the expectations and desires of men and women together.
A successful civilisation reproduces itself. Liberal modernity doesn't: it looks to immigration from non-liberal societies to maintain its population. If having children is a vote for the future, then liberal modernity is losing the election.
If liberal modernity really was such a success story, then why are so many native citizens emigrating from the most advanced liberal countries.
For instance, in 2006 over 130,000 people left Holland; in 2007, 207,000 left Britain.
When you read the reasons for the decision to leave, often factors like crime and a changing cultural identity are mentioned.
Yes, it's true that many people from poorer countries would happily move to places like Britain or Holland. Even so, it's significant that many of the native-born population are so discontent that they have packed their bags for elsewhere.
When people left East Germany for the West it was thought to be a sign of the inherent weakness of communism. Now there are large numbers leaving the most liberal Western countries. Why would they do so if their own countries really were organised along the most beneficial lines?