I had an interesting conversation with a left-wing acquaintance the other day. He suddenly blurted out his fears that Australia was going to get crushed by the forces gathering around it. He thought the Asian powers like China and India would continue to develop whilst Australia would fall behind. He also complained about stagnant wages and the high cost of housing in Australia.
I thought his comments significant because liberals have traditionally staked their politics on the idea of progress. And perhaps it was once possible for liberals to seriously believe in progress. There was a time, after all, when the liberal Western nations were ascendant in the world and when the average man could look forward to rising wages and a shorter working week. In these circumstances, people might have imagined that liberalism was delivering on its promise of progress.
But my acquaintance no longer held out much hope for this. He clearly thought things were going backwards. Hopefully, this means that liberalism will seem far less attractive a philosophy for the younger generations.
My acquaintance also had a theory for the decline. He did not blame an excessive individualism, or problems in the family leading to low birth rates, or the move offshore of industry due to neoliberal economics or the effect on the economy and society of open borders. For him, the underlying problem was a lack of respect for intellectuals and intellectualism.
And in this he is stuck in an old-fashioned headspace. One in which intellectuals feel alienated from society because they don't get to rule society to the degree they think is due to them.
This despite the fact that the modern West, the one my acquaintance thinks is declining, is largely a product of a secular liberal intelligentsia.