Saturday, August 07, 2010

Chapter 1: What is shaping the West?

What has brought us to the way we are now? What can explain the rapid changes in Western societies?

To answer these questions you need to know the world view of the Western political class. It is the belief system shared by the Western political class which determines what is thought to be moral and legitimate, which then, over time, drives society in a particular direction.

But what orthodox view is shared by nearly all members of this class?


Liberalism as orthodoxy

The Western political class shares a commitment to a liberal political philosophy. There are very few politicians, academics, writers or intellectuals whose beliefs are not based on an underlying liberalism.

That’s why an American professor of politics, Steven Kautz, is able to state that,
The political philosophy of liberalism ... is in some sense our political philosophy: we are somehow all liberals. [1]

The political writer James Kalb observes that,
Liberalism so surrounds us that it is hard to imagine an alternative. Even those who see difficulties with it almost never reject it fundamentally, but attempt to reinvent it in some way or another. [2]

Professor Appiah of Princeton University describes liberalism as encompassing,
... nearly all members of nearly all of the mainstream political parties in Europe and North America. [3]

Alasdair MacIntyre, a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame, tells us that,
Contemporary debates within modern political systems are almost exclusively between conservative liberals, liberal liberals, and radical liberals. There is little place in such political systems for the criticism of the system itself, that is, for putting liberalism in question. [4]

Another prominent political philosopher, Professor John Gray, believes that,
We are all liberals nowadays ... It sometimes seems as if the spectrum of ideas in political life ranges from the sovereign consumer of the neo-liberal right to the sovereign chooser of the egalitarian left. [5]

According to Dr Phillip Cole, a senior lecturer in politics,
normative political philosophy at present simply is predominantly liberal political philosophy [6]

And Professor John Schwarzmantel, who teaches politics at the University of Leeds, holds that,
Contemporary liberal-democracy is an ideological society, where a particular version of liberalism prevails ... [which] has been able to ... capture if not public enthusiasm then at least acceptance as ‘the only game in town’. This then gives rise to a very impoverished spectrum of ideological and political debate... [7]

Next chapter: Autonomy theory


[1] Steven Kautz, Liberalism & Community (New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), 28.

[2] James Kalb, The Tyranny of Liberalism (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2008), x.

[3] Kwame Anthony Appiah, The Ethics of Identity (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), xi.

[4] Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (University of Notre Dame Press, 1998).

[5] John Gray, “What liberalism cannot do,” New Statesman, 20 September 1996, 18.

[6] Phillip Cole, Philosophies of Exclusion: Liberal Political Theory and Immigration (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2000), xi.

[7] John Schwarzmantel, “Hegemony and Contestation in Post-ideological Society,” Paper presented at the ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops, Uppsala, 13-17 April 2004.

22 comments:

  1. A most interesting subject Mr. Richardson, the supremacy of orthodox liberalism, with apt definitions adduced.

    However, I can scarcely refrain from noticing, and lamenting, your reliance on American works, which are I'm afraid mostly prejudiced and puerile. America is the acme of Western greatness, but almost nothing of any value was originally born of America. Jefferson and Franklin were Englishmen on the frontier, not the fathers of a new race expressive of new beliefs and pursuits.

    Appiah is a Negro "philosopher", whom I've encountered before as the scribbler of the article on African philosophy (oxymoron) in the Routledge philosophic encyclopaedia, a copy of which I own. He is an untalented, boastful black nationalist, who strains the truth, and his readers' credulity, by extolling wretchedly obscure Negro shamans as minds equal to Berkeley or Fichte. The best African thinker he names, was St. Augustine of Hippo, white North African Berber with no material or metaphorical relation to the sub-Saharan Tartarus Mr Appiah sprang from.

    He is the sort of pretended philosopher who the rakes and madames of the leftie coffee-houses marvel at for his 'vibrancy' and 'authenticity'. Such people are best called poseurs, or better yet in pure Saxon, call them scum.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I should subjoin to my previous declaration this comment; that I bear no particular animus against Mr Appiah or the like.

    Actually, in the aftermath of 1914 and the inexpressibly horrific catastrophe of WWI for the West, I don't value a single idea or art (Is philosophy loftier or music finer than before 1914?; No), or single device (Is life more 'fun' for individuals or a community since the advent of computers?; Answer obviously is no) at all. Unhappily for Mr Appiah he came into the world after 1914 so is involved in my general condemnation of indifference and disgust.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am delighted to see you are pursuing this project, and look forward to reading the chapters.
    -Thucydides

    ReplyDelete
  4. A useful document, Mark. I look forward to reading more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "However, I can scarcely refrain from noticing, and lamenting, your reliance on American works"

    Is there actually an American academic who is really against liberalism? Probably not, John Kekes claims to be a conservative who is opposed to personal autonomy as a overriding virtue, but in practice he basically just appears to be a defender of right wing liberalism, since this was the ideology of the U.S. founding fathers.

    Rodger Scruton, and perhaps John Gray to a certain extent, are perhaps the only contemporary mainstream academics to directly challenge liberal ideas.

    For example Scruton argues that preserving established institutions should often takes precedence over individual rights.
    Scruton argues that the U.S. poltical system is un-conservative since it is designed to protect the rights of the individual rather than preserving the institutions of American government and society.

    For many Americans who regard themselves as conservative, conservatism simply means the absence of government. However, this indicates a right liberal obsession with means over ends and a colonial bias towards ideological naivity. The aim of progressive liberalism isn't government, it's personal autonomy and equality. Government for liberals is merely a means to achieve an end, with the end being personal autonomy. Ultimately most progressives liberals believe or hope the state will decline once equality has been reduced or eliminated.

    Porgressive liberals have actually reduced government power in a number of key areas, such as trade policy, infrastructure development, military conscription and laws regarding homosexual relations, treatment of criminals, abortion and pornography.

    As a post-modern opponent of liberalism, John Gray opposes it because he believes in pluralism and thinks that liberalism is incompatible with pluralism, which requires balancing a range of values rather than just personal autonomy.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rob, Thucydides, thanks.

    Hesper, I've only read one work by Appiah. I found it useful as a frank discussion of issues within liberalism. I agree with you that there has been an obvious decline in Western culture (in the broadest sense of the word) since about WWI (I'm trying to think of some good classical composers who were still going in the 1920s: Respighi? Vaughan Williams?) I don't agree quite so much with you regarding devices. I like technological innovation, even though I don't think it improves those things that are most important in life.

    Mike, an interesting comment, thanks. I think you're right to query the extent to which Kekes has broken with right liberalism.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Mr. Courtman shows much penetration and good sense in his remarks.

    However hardy, daring and ingenious they were (all of which are manful virtues worthy of applause), the fathers of the American nation were addicted to fairy ideas as 'human rights'.

    What in heaven's name is a human right?, I ask myself as Burke and Gibbon both also did. Can one touch or feel it, or is it capable by innate effort of asserting its own power? No, 'human rights' are stupid abstractions, and I resent that my freedom it abridged and my welfare harmed, as are those of the native Australian community, for the sake of stupid abstractions.

    Let's not forget, Messers Howard and Rudd both believed in occupying Afghanistan in the cause of human rights, then importing Afghan deadwood into our cities for the same reason of human rights. So, we kill them and invite their relatives here to brood in publicy-supported idleness out of what is essentially reckless, self-martyring madness.

    ReplyDelete
  8. The words "all the fathers of the American nation" are undeniably hyperbolic and I beg pardon from our American readers for my excessive disapproval.

    Washington and Adams, among some other notable sages of less renown, like Hamilton or Patrick Henry, were in no sense guilty of Jefferson's wild delusions.

    Adams in particular was possessed of an immense capacity for practical reasoning and was the only founder deserving of the name philosopher. His actions in defending the British soldiers at the 'Boston Massacre' trial prove his incorruptible love of justice.

    Sorry for the digression Mr Richardson.

    ReplyDelete
  9. There were other admirable composers still going strong after World War I. To name a few: Ravel, Sibelius, Rachmaninoff, Puccini, Richard Strauss.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Liberalism so surrounds us that it is hard to imagine an alternative

    There seems to be assumption to liberals that every is starting form within the Liberal worldview. Views outside of this are incomprehensible.



    @Mike Courtman
    Is there actually an American academic who is really against liberalism?
    Maybe not but it depends on your definition of academic. Do Pat Buchanan, Jared Taylor, Laurence Auster count as "academics?"

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hesper wrote “Tartarus

    The word, though broadly referring to barbarians, actually refers to a Turko-Asiatic people of Siberia brought into Europe from the deep East under the command of Gengis Khan, not negroid Africans from south of the Mediterranean.

    Courtman asks “Is there actually an American academic who is really against liberalism?

    Yes. Any academic associated with the paleo-conservative school. I suggest you read Chronicles, where Thomas Fleming is Editor. That is possibly the most immediate example that comes to mind. Another is Paul Gottfried… there are others, few and far between, but they do exist. Andrew Fraser here in Australia lost his job for excessively honest remarks about African immigration. But he may simply be a race-realist, not a philosophical paleo-conservative as such.

    Hesper further wrote: “Messers Howard and Rudd both believed in occupying Afghanistan in the cause of human rights

    I think you will find that those were reasons given to obtain support from a sentimentalist public. If the export of human rights is reasons to invade another country, then our troops would be policing Harare (known as Salisbury in better times). I am of the view that the affairs surrounding Iraq and Afghanistan are more to do with global geopolitics than “human rights” or even “oil”… I don’t believe the public will ever really know what the deal truly was/is. I predict a future revisionist movement dedicated to this subject alone. Nevertheless, I don’t think it’s a question of ideology. The first three pro intervention enthusiasts for Iraq, for example, were a neo-conservative Bush, a Labourite Blair, and a neo-post-crypto-communist Kwasniewski (people forget Poland was the third largest contributor to the war in its early stages and occupation, and even has a sector of the country under its direct military administration).

    Liesel asks: “Do Pat Buchanan, Jared Taylor, Laurence Auster count as ‘academics?’

    No. Unless they teach at a tertiary educational institute, or have retired after an extensive career in same. I don’t think this applies to either of the above.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Erratum: the sentence "and even has a sector of the country under its direct military administration" was supposed to be in the past tense, obviously.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'd forgotten about Paul Gottfried. Yes, he is a good one to read.

    ReplyDelete
  14. "Maybe not but it depends on your definition of academic. Do Pat Buchanan, Jared Taylor, Laurence Auster count as "academics?"

    Maybe Auster, I'd probably class Buchanan and Taylor as intellectuals criticising certain aspects of liberalism.

    I haven't read much of Gottfried and Fleming (apart from some of Gottfried's webzine articles) so I 'm not sure how much they go into political philosophy. I'll make a point to read more of what they have written.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Courtman wrote: “Gottfried and Fleming (apart from some of Gottfried's webzine articles) so I 'm not sure how much they go into political philosophy.

    I haven’t read anything of Gottfreid’s apart from his articles in the paleo magazines and journals. I recommend Chronicles, The American Conservative, Salisbury Review, Quarterly Review for starters. As for Fleming, you must get your hands on The Morality of Everyday Life and his recent Socialism.

    None of this is available in Australia – you have to buy yourself an international subscription, buy the books online etc.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Oh, and if I may be permitted to augment a prior point made in relation to the justification for the invasion of Afghanistan:

    The war in Afghanistan was legitimised by reason of Kabul’s provision of sanctuary for al Quada which did declare war on the West and acted accordingly as far back at the first attack on the World Trade Centre, the bombing of various US embassies in Africa, the USS Cole etc.

    The US reaction was appropriate, in my view, but incomplete. They had the opportunity to annihilate Osama bin Laden but diverted their own attention and efforts by embarking on an expedition to Iraq.

    Students of Thucydides will find parallels with the Athenian military Expedition to Sicily, and its fatal effects on their resistance against Sparta in the Peloponnesian War.

    Australia’s involvement was legitimate insofar as we responded to the call from an ally, in what was characterised as a common cause. I would not therefore “hang dead dogs” on Howard in relation to Afghanistan. Our external affairs will always be largely connected with the initiatives of allied global powers – another reason to feel threatened by a growing China and a domestic government dominated by an ideology which rejects nationalism and is enamoured with “The Other”.

    ReplyDelete
  17. As Mr Kilroy affects firm knowledge of ancient Greek military history, it astonishes me that he would also commit such a gross error in asserting that the name Tartarus is connected to the Central Asian Turco-Mongols who once swarmed over the Russian steppes bent on conquest and rapine.

    As one enlightened by a classical education, conversant with the language and sacred lore of the Greeks, I must assure Mr Kilroy that Tartarus was the name of the lowest abyss, below Hades, in the Grecian religion, and is etymologically independent from the Persian word describing the Tartars, often spelt Tatars for the purpose of distinguishing the separate ideas they denote.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hesper, the term is almost never (if ever at all) used in connection with its Hellenic connotation. When invoked, it refers to the Asiatic marauding horsemen of the Golden Horde.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Have you ever read James Burnham's book, "Suicide of the West"? It is a classic account of the nature of liberalism. Burnham cuts into the motivations and psychology of liberalism--and why people who declare themselves conservatives often buy into liberal ideology. The book was written in the early 1960s, but he was spot on about many trends which have developed since.

    http://www.amazon.com/Suicide-West-James-Burnham/dp/0786100222

    (By the way, there is another book out there with the same title...)

    ReplyDelete
  20. Mike Courtman--

    Progressive Liberals in America do not foresee an end to government someday and I sincerely doubt they do in the E.U. I don't know where you ever got that idea from. Government is their raison d'etre--it is through government that they have effected most of the societal change the West has undergone in the last one-hundred years.

    Furthermore, if the U.S. Constitution had been strictly followed, there could be no far left movement forcing these changes since almost all of them have relied on radical judges forcing these policies down the throats of the American public. The right to own property and do with it as one sees fit was eradicated by the Federal courts and is the reason why we no longer have another guaranteed right--freedom of association.

    I'm not sure why, but all modern "conservative" philosophers have gone along with the Communist movement's renaming of itself--i.e. "progressives". They are nothing of the sort, they are communists and they make no bones about it in private. Their intent today is as it was one hundred years ago--the abolition of The West's culture and institutions as well as, it now seems, it's people.

    Marx and his peers thought very little of most non-whites. This views point changed with their heirs, whereupon the non-whites became the ultimate proletarians. Toward this end, multiculturalism serves two purposes--one, destruction of Western institutions and culture. Two, destruction of the Western peoples themselves and three, along the way they can pretend that giving up our lands and wealth to these people is "justice'.

    But I assure you, sir, that the vast majority of Americans only go along with this due to the power of the state.

    As far as the intent of The Founding Fathers, I suggest you all read "The Federalist Papers". That is how it was sold to the American people at the time. It is distinctly different from most people's interpretation. It is not a "living document" subject to interpretation, it was written in stone, in plain English (deliberately) with one way to change it--via amendment, said amendment to be approved by a super majority of the states. Knowing that this could not be done for most of their wishes, the Left took to using strategic judgeship's to accomplish the change via judicial fiat. Of course they had their willing accomplices in the White House--since the Judiciary has no way to enforce their rulings, it takes the President to send in the troops.

    ReplyDelete
  21. To understand and appreciate the American predicament there is a great book and audio book called 'A State Of Emergency'. This book spells out exactly how America was conquered and is being invaded. Also you will have sympathy for them and understand the difference between the true American and the Neo conservatives who everyone confuses for conservatives. Neo Cons are of the Jewish faith and lead the US into its wars etc. while riding on the back of conservatives. Neo Cons are really just exploitative liberals. It would do Australians a great service to understand the difference.

    John
    Darwin

    ReplyDelete
  22. I must also add that there is a great book and audio book by a Neo Con called 'Righteous Indignation' by Andrew Breitbart who is extremely intelligent and traced the beginnings of liberalism and Multiculturalism in America. He is Jewish so does not fear exposing what his brethren did to swindle America into becoming liberal and anti all things good beautiful and decent in order for them to gain power by weakening the nation and turn kids against their parents and women against men blacks against whites and the list goes on. It is a must read if only for those chapters. He was one of the people who brought down Acorn with the secret videos. Check it on youtube. It will make you cry. Australia is next!

    John
    Darwin

    ReplyDelete