Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The last surviving extreme?

The twentieth century was plagued by extreme political ideologies, most of which were finally seen off. But does one remain?

I'd like to argue here that one extreme and destructive ideology does remain, namely liberalism.

Not everyone will immediately accept this claim. After all, liberalism is the political ideology that dominates Western countries like Australia.

Suburban life in Australia mostly revolves around going to work, shopping, watching TV and so on. There's not a lot of political excitement in the daily routine.

Nor does the liberal political class in Australia rely on a secret police or the threat of being sent to a labour camp to maintain control. The political class is generally able to stay dominant through the influence of the media, the schools and the universities.

Nor are liberals in countries like Australia revolutionary in the sense of wanting violent change or demanding a complete and immediate implementation of a revolutionary programme. Instead, they tend to be reformist, using the state to advance their aims one step at a time.

Nonetheless, I think it's accurate to claim that liberalism is a surviving extremist ideology we need to see off. Liberals in power may not be revolutionary in seeking to violently impose a vision of utopia; even so, they do follow a "transformative" urge: they need to feel they have made a difference in making progress toward the liberal ideal.

So decade by decade we are pushed further along toward more extreme and more destructive outcomes. Examples? The following spring to mind:
  • Andrew Neather admitted recently that the mass influx of immigrants into the UK was not an accidental oversight as the Blair Government claimed but was done deliberately to permanently transform the population of that country - and was therefore hidden as a policy from UK voters. One commentator had this to say about the admission:

    A speechwriter who worked for Tony Blair has said that the unprecedented mass immigration into the UK was done intentionally and purely for political reasons. This is utterly devastating news. Some people ... have said for a long time that certain government elites have been deliberately and actively trying replace the indigenous populations of their own countries without asking the people what they thought about the idea. It now turns out they were correct. This is the greatest betrayal in human history that I can think of.
    It isn't easy to think of a greater betrayal. How many governments, prior to modern liberalism, set out to secretly replace their own population with another one as a "transformative" project? There wouldn't be too many more extreme political projects than this one.

    What immediately springs to mind is Bertolt Brecht's famous response to the crushing of a workers' uprising in East Germany in 1953 by the communist regime:
    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had thrown away the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?
    It has been liberal and not communist governments which eventually have set out to "dissolve the people and elect another". It is a clear case of just how radical mainstream liberal politics can be.
  • In 2004, 500 modern art experts were asked what they thought was the most influential work of modern art. The 500 experts voted for "The Fountain" by Marcel Duchamp. This was a public urinal exhibited as a statue. High art had been reduced, in a modern liberal society, to toiletry. This is especially significant as high art exists not just to entertain but to communicate the ideals of a particular society.
  • Jens Orbeck, as a minister in the Swedish government, declared that it was official government policy that male and female had no real existence but were merely social constructs:
    The government considers female and male as social constructions, that means gender patterns are created by upbringing, culture, economic conditions, power structures and political ideology.
    Just in case people weren't listening Monica Silvell, representing the Swedish ministry of gender equality, again denied the distinction between male and female in 2004:
    The government must regard "male" and "female" as social constructions
    How can this not be considered extreme? What other ideologies have gone so far as to deny the distinction between male and female?
  • Liberalism has given rise to the idea that an action is made moral simply because we ourselves have chosen it. Dr Mirko Bargaric, an Australian human rights lawyer, believes that:
    we are morally complete and virtuous individuals if we do as we wish so long as our actions do not harm others.
    Similarly Dr Leslie Cannold, an Australian ethicist, has put forward the idea that:
    defining your own good ... is at the heart of a moral life
    This is extreme in the sense that it denies the existence of an objective good existing outside our own individual will. In this sense it is nihilistic.
These are a few aspects of liberalism which should, at least, suggest the possibility that liberalism can be looked on as an extreme political ideology.

In my next post I'd like to take the argument further, by going beyond individual examples and identifying what is extreme within liberal philosophy itself.

24 comments:

  1. I enjoy reading your blog and despite my immigrant status, consider myself a global conservative. It is interesting that you are using an anonymous speech writer's uncorroborated statement to make your case. Shaky foundations.

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  2. Apu,

    The speech writer isn't anonymous. His name is Andrew Neather and he was a Labour Party insider - a speech writer for Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Tony Blunkett.

    The link I put into the article seems to be temporarily broken, but this was big news in Britain (see, for instance, here and here).

    Yes, the speech writer's statement is uncorroborated, but he has no reason to write falsely on the matter as he is a Labour Party supporter who is strongly in favour of the policy. It seems unlikely that his very specific account of the matter is groundless.

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  3. Liberalism is an extreme ideology that intends the destruction of our entire cultural-social order. Even Woody Allen is on the liberal activist bandwagon now. His latest movie, Whatever Works, starring Larry David in the Woody Allen role, is the most political, "evangelical" movie he's made—evangelical in the sense that it aggressively advances the liberal creed in a way he's never done before. The creed consists of the following positions: Christianity and traditional values are for repressed subnormals who must be continually mocked and despised; each person must throw off the shackles of Judeo-Christian morality and the Ten Commandments to discover his true life-style self (menage a trois, homosexuality etc.); life is completely meaningless because we're all going to die and each of us spends his time caring about things that are totally absurd and idiotic, but at the same time each person through pure chance somehow ends up with just the right mate (or mates) to give him or her complete happiness. In Allen's world, there is no goodness or truth, and everything is due to chance; yet at the same time each person enjoys the fulfillment of his relationship with just the right mate. But, if there is a true fulfillment for each person, doesn't that show that there is a good? Liberals, Darwinists and others simultaneously want to enjoy the good, while denying the objective existence of the good and trashing the very idea of the good.

    For example, the main character takes a suicide leap through his loft window, but instead lands on top of a woman on the sidewalk who turns out to be his perfect mate and who changes him from a fanatically misanthropic grouch into a happy guy. Yet even as he's basking in his happiness in the last scene of the movie, he keeps insisting that everything is meaningless, It never occurs to him that such a remarkable event, a suicide jump turning into his meeting with his perfect mate, reveals the working not of chance but of a beneficent providence.

    And that's liberalism: you get to enjoy your own happiness, to boast of your own happiness, even while you keep telling others that there is no God, good, or meaning. You poison the world for others, you strip life of meaning, while you enjoy the good life for yourself.

    I'm not recommending the movie. It is stunningly bad, and I watched it not out of interest but in numbed fascination at how bad it was. But it was worth seeing for the last scene, when its evangelical-liberal purpose suddenly comes into view.

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  4. I'm not saying that the ideas in this movie are new to Allen, but that the active way he pushes them is new, as though he had become the cultural arm of the Democratic Party.

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  5. Andrew Neather admitted recently that the mass influx of immigrants into the UK was not an accidental oversight as the Blair Government claimed but was done deliberately to permanently transform the population of that country - and was therefore hidden as a policy from UK voters.

    It is almost as if they took a page from the Australian Labor Party's book.

    I'm sure Australian readers will recall Bob Hawke's proclamation in the early 1990s that his government had enforced elite as opposed to popular opinion on immigration. Hawke would later claim that immigration was most far-reaching decision of his era, with his immigration policies doing more than anything else to define modern Australia.

    Put bluntly, Hawke set out to transform Australia through massive non-traditional immigration against the wishes and best interests of the Australian people. And not only did he succeed in bringing about this undemocratic revolution, but he is proud of the fact that he was able to subvert democracy and bring about a radical change in the makeup of Australian society that Australians neither asked for nor wanted.

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  6. I just read a detailed plot outline of Whatever Works.

    I'm struck by the same things that Lawrence Auster commented on. On the one hand, Woody Allen presents us with a random, meaningless, unordered world in which all we can aim for is "whatever works". But then this "random" world just happens to sort things out providentially in the end for our happiness.

    It's not only an extreme view in its amorality, it's an incoherent one as well.

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  7. "I enjoy reading your blog and despite my immigrant status, consider myself a global conservative."

    Most of us here are concerned with preserving our Western European traditions, way of life and identity.

    Given that you're a non-Westerner, I don't see how you can claim to share the same goals.

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  8. I would also consider Environmentalism to be a modern extreme.

    I do think that an immigrant status is not inconsistent with being conservative, but the issue is conserving what? It is easier to be a western conservative if you are western, however, there is much scope for assimilation within our culture.

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  9. "I do think that an immigrant status is not inconsistent with being conservative, but the issue is conserving what?"

    Presumably, most non-Western immigrants wish to conserve the culture and traditions of their homelands. In that case, their brand of conservatism is antithetical to our particular form of conservatism.

    "It is easier to be a western conservative if you are western, however, there is much scope for assimilation within our culture."

    One has to wonder: how can non-Westerners ever truly identify with the West, a civilisation created and characterised by white European peoples?

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  10. Mark,
    I read the link from Mail Online about Britains Labour policy.
    Frightening stuff!

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  11. Sorry for the repeated comments, but I've posted a revised version of my comment at my site.

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  12. Bargaric does not sound like she rejects an objective moral good. Why add the conditional about not harming others if one's will makes one good? I don't believe in an objective morality, and that's why I wouldn't make that statement.

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  13. The liberalism of J.S. Mill is ethnocentric and discriminatory. Freedom, according to Mill, cannot exist in multicultural society.

    "Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities."

    Thus it is not liberalism that places Western man in extremis. Mr. Richardson's self-imposed denial tarnishes his analysis.

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  14. Have you read Jim Kalb's book? You might enjoy it.

    http://bit.ly/1iVAoL

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  15. "In an emotional address to the conference, Mr Hawke said the migration policies of his government had done more than anything else to define modern Australia." The Australian

    "What [Ian] McAllister is saying is that there has been an implicit pact between the major parties to implement broad policies on immigration that they know are not generally endorsed by the electorate, and that they have done this by keeping the subject off the political agenda. Now, from the broad experience I have had and the knowledge I have acquired first hand I must say that I find it difficult to resist the basis thrust of McAllister's hypothesis... I think that can be no other issue on which the major parties have been prepared to act together in this way with the common cement of ACTU support to advance the national interest ahead of where they believe the electorate should be." - Bob Hawke speaking about immigration, 1993.

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  16. Anon (10:43),

    What matters is the logic of a political philosophy.

    Mill's philosophy was based on individual autonomy. This led him, even back in the mid-1800s, to a feminist position, that differences between the sexes might be entirely socialised (i.e. that there might be no natural distinctions between male and female).

    In terms of nationalism, he directed his fire toward the aristocratic empires of Europe and to the various regional identities. He saw the liberal democratic state as a progressive force of the commerical classes.

    His liberal autonomism hadn't yet reached the point of rejecting, on principle, an ethnic basis for national identity (and why would it when it was this kind of nationalism that was pushing against the aristocratic empires and which was centralising regional identities into modern national states).

    But as we now know, Mill's individualistic philosophy is no basis for sustaining a national community. How can it be? This is a long quote, but it describes Mill's underlying individualistic philosophy and what it is ultimately oriented to:

    "Liberal culture, as a form of modernity, superseded the classical and medieval world views - specifically, the notions of a collective (teleological) good over and above, and inclusive and constitutive of, the individual good. What liberal culture substitutes for a collective good is a common good. This raises the basic problem with which modern political theorists have had to grapple: What is the common good, and how are we to understand the relationship between the individual good of autonomous individuals and a common good? The common good consists of the conditions (procedural norms) that promote individual flourishing. Here arises the potential conflict: What guarantees are there that some individuals will not perceive their own flourishing in terms of the domination of others and/or in terms of practices that undermine the conditions for universal flourishing? Hegel answered this best when he asserted that the supreme form of flourishing requires interaction with and recognition of other autonomous individuals. No society, no institution and no relationship can promote individual flourishing if it's based on a permament relationship of domination or subjection. (Capaldi, John Stuart Mill)"

    So there is no collective good that helps to form our own individual good. There is just an individual goood of personal autonomy. But what if we are tempted to increase our autonomy at the expense of others? The Millian answer is that our own autonomy is best served (maximised) when all our relationships are based on autonomy. Therefore, we must stringently guard against any unequal relationships based on dominance or subordination.

    And so we get to modern politics which is little concerned with a a collective good but mightily and jealously concerned with issues of privilege, oppression, discrimination and so on.

    In other words, Mill's philosophy has affected the whole cast or temper of modern politics, and it's one in which the preservation of a national tradition, as part of our own individual good, is simply unrecognised and overshadowed by issues of "equal autonomy".

    We have to throw off Mill if we want to make a collective good matter.

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  17. "It isn't easy to think of a greater betrayal. How many governments, prior to modern liberalism, set out to secretly replace their own population with another one as a "transformative" project? There wouldn't be too many more extreme political projects than this one."

    If leaders are motivated by political advantage or misguided ideology it is still the case that the public must consent to a certain degree for any great change to take place. In Australia and the West we grumble frequently, usually under our breath, about immigration but this rarely translates to active political steps or statements. Whilst the voices in favour of immigration are not inhibited and are strong.

    As a society we are aware that it is a social good for harmony to exist between different peoples. This I think is a truism which is uncontroversial. This has translated in practise to an acceptance of diverse populations within our nation. Consequently it is seen as promoting division or disrespect, breaking harmony, to argue for a (or at least more of a) monoculture. In order to be good respectful citizens we don't argue overtly against immigration.

    However, this is a situation which most people seem content with. It was mentioned earlier that most people in liberal societies, work, shop and have fun. Lead individual lives or lives within their groups. What we lack today and what makes immigration such an issue is there is a lack of a larger national consensus or community. The only people seriously filling this social role are greenies and other social activists who would have us all recycle together as a nation. When there is the sense of a larger national ethic missing, ie rampant individualism, immigration is far less of a concern politically for people. Immigration becomes a personal issue, they smell funny, they play loud music at night, I can't always understand them. Immigration is no longer a national issue it is a "nuisance" issue.

    We can criticise our leaders all we like and yes they have a responsibility to their nation. However, ultimately in a democracy the responsibility is ours. It is our job to say this is what we want and expect. We get the leaders we deserve.

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  18. I am inclined to agree with you Jesse_7. Rudd has gone on record as saying that he wants to boost our population 35 million with a massive immigration push mainly from Asia. If he is re-elected next year the Australian people cannot claim that they weren't aware or didn't approve of this.

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  19. "One has to wonder: how can non-Westerners ever truly identify with the West, a civilisation created and characterised by white European peoples?"

    Well I would agree it is an unusual historical circumstance. The latter history of Rome shows that a polyglot people may not stand on firm ground.

    One thing the West has is a magnetic appeal to other cultures. Many people across the world aspire to be "Western". We could say that westernism is conflated with consumerism and people merely want a higher standard of living. I would argue, however, that it is more than that. The ideals and aims of science seem particularly western. The striving for personal freedoms and fulfilment seem particularly western and this is often put in contrast with people's traditional societies.

    Issues of liberalism versus traditionalism take place in all societies across the world. In every country people complain about the disrespect shown towards traditional values. However, in other countries people have a choice. Embrace western liberalism, traditional culture or try to fuse the two. There is certainly a strong awareness in these societies of what their traditional culture is. On the contrary in the West our own traditionalism is in a weak footing. For instance we hear when arguing with lefties about perceived left wing bias the endless mistake made that so and so a person is right wing, consequently there is no left wing bias etc. The right wing person is usually a lassiez faire individualist or economist. People seem to think that classical economics is the essence of conservatism. This is not only utterly false it shows how weak in people's understanding conservatism is.

    I do appreciate many aspects of liberalism and I think it has been quintessential for many of our advances. However, we cannot live on this alone in isolation from other factors. Blokes like JS Mill spoke in a time when all of society was church going. Things like the church acted as a temper and a balance to much of liberalism. Remove that and there is serious instability. The ideas of progress, change and individual advancement must be tempered and balanced by concepts of duty, society and right conduct. The Left wing criticise liberalism too, complaining it has lead to unrestrained capitalism/greed and selfishness. Their alternate replacements for our traditional mores, however, are not suitable.
    We will continue to debate liberalism and traditionalism within our society. However, immigration is not just another debate. As we speak the make up of our society is changing and so this is an issue of the greatest urgency.

    To what extent can people integrate or assimilate? I think quite a lot, however, I don’t think it’s really possible if the population isn’t majority western or white.

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  20. "If he is re-elected next year the Australian people cannot claim that they weren't aware or didn't approve of this."

    Its just the nature of democracy that so many issues get mixed in together at election time. I think immigration isn't really on the political map yet but I think its rising.

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  21. I think its important to make a distinction between modernist liberalism (1770-1970) and post-modernist liberalism (1970-?), as there was a sharp ideological break within liberalism around the time that the first cohort of Baby Boomers entered into civil society.

    Modernist liberalism is a philosophy developed by British and French gentlemen to reconcile individual autonomy with institutional authority. It assumes that individuals would act responsibly and institutions would be accountable.

    Post-modernist liberalism is a monstrous caricature of modernist liberalism. It assumes that all individuals are equally capable of autonomy and it reduces accountability to observance of inter-personal contracts. As if the wisdom of our elders counted for nothing.

    Post-modernist liberalism also picked up and spread the appalling cultural viruses that were hanging in the air in the sixties, which it then turned into a marketing philosophy: solipsism, hedonism and narcissism.

    And to make matters as bad as they possibly could be, po-mo liberalism spread these viruses way beyond the educated, middle-classes (who had some natural and acquired immunity) into every diverse corner of the world.

    The end result is what Muggeridge called "the Great Liberal Death Wish" where doing your own thing results in self-destruction, through obesity, drug-addiction or barreness.

    Its not a pretty sight. And to top it all off post-modern liberals instinctively present their views as both the very latest in cultural fashion and self-evidently right. Their conceit is boundless.

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  22. Mark,


    # Liberalism has given rise to the idea that an action is made moral simply because we ourselves have chosen it. Dr Mirko Bargaric, an Australian human rights lawyer, believes that:

    we are morally complete and virtuous individuals if we do as we wish so long as our actions do not harm others.


    You're mischaracterising Bargaric. The moral component of his statement surely owes more to doing no harm to others than it does from doing as one wishes.

    That said, Bargaric is wrong. Doing no harm to others is morally sufficient, but of itself it doesn't morally complete us.

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