normative political philosophy at present simply is predominantly liberal political philosophy
I doubt if liberalism will retain this orthodox status forever. However, it's important to keep in mind that the demise of liberalism won't necessarily mean a revival of traditionalism. Liberalism could be replaced by something else just as damaging.
I was reminded of this after reading a column by Giles Fraser, an Anglican minister. In this column, Fraser states clearly that he is not a liberal:
All of which presents an opportunity to clear the decks and say why I am not a liberal. No, I'm not a conservative either. I'm a communitarian. Blue labour, if you like. But certainly not a liberal.
His understanding of liberalism is pretty good:
What I take to be the essence of liberalism is a belief that individual freedom and personal autonomy are the fundamental moral goods.
Fraser is right that liberals put the moral goods of individual freedom and personal autonomy first. One of the problems with this, as I see it, is that it then leaves the good of the community undefended, and the good of the community is important for individual well-being, as we are social creatures who derive important aspects of our identity and our sense of belonging from the communities we belong to.
Fraser criticises liberalism from a different perspective, a socialist one. He wants the community to hold to a moral vision of equality and redistribution and this communal good is then to trump any individual ones:
So, do we think the state ought to have a substantial vision of shared values, perfectly at ease with the language of right and wrong, and at times not at all uncomfortable about imposing that vision through taxation and legislation? Or do we think that the state ought to butt out and let us all get on with living our lives as we see fit?
Just to be clear. I take it that socialists are happy with the former, using the levers of government to shape (impose, if you like) a fairer, more redistributive society.
Fraser observes correctly that individual choice often reduces itself to relatively trivial aims:
From the 80s onwards, popular culture morphed from an angry insistence on a fairer society (the Jam, the Specials etc) into a me-first relativism that is all about sex and shopping.
Fraser then discusses what community means for liberals (though his description seems to best fit classical or right-liberals):
For liberals the word community means little more than co-operation for mutual advantage. Here, individuals exist fundamentally prior to community. There is no such thing as society, and so forth. Liberals are doing it for themselves and rely on the invisible hand of self-interest to do the community work for them. This sort of philosophy has little to offer those who are trying to eke out a living in the tower blocks of south London. It is a philosophy that has demonstrably failed. For socialists, Christians and other religious denominations, the community precedes the individual in so far as the individual is shaped by and responsible to something wider than itself.
It's true to say that the individual is shaped by community and responsible to something wider than himself, but I'm not sure that I'd therefore claim that philosophically the community precedes the individual. The stronger the sense we have of the individual, then the stronger the sense we ought to have of the community which gives the individual the setting for his social commitments, for his self-fulfilment, for his identity, for his love of people and place, for his connection to culture and heritage and so on.
It is not as if you have to choose either individual or community: if you choose individual then you should also choose to defend community rather than seeing community as something the individual has to be liberated from.
It's likely that in coming years some of the attacks on liberalism will come from those who wish to replace it with a socialist view of the common good, which will boil down to the state replacing the functions of the family and also redistributing wealth in the name of equality.
It's important that we maintain our own traditionalist criticisms of liberalism, so that those who blanch at the socialist vision aren't forced back to liberalism as an alternative.