What this means is that the right-liberal parties, despite being formally committed to limited government, will usually nonetheless choose to increase the domain of the state in order to further extend individual autonomy.
Individualism and statism grow together. Deneen points out that liberals end up creating something like the picture of society that Hobbes sketched out in the 1600s: the Leviathan state and a multitude of atomised individuals.
I was reminded of this by a small news item in the Australian media. The right-liberal Government here in Australia (which is supposedly committed to smaller government) has made changes to paid parental leave, with more women being eligible to claim it. What is notable is how this decision was framed:
Federal Minister for Women Kelly O'Dwyer will detail the initiatives while delivering Australia's first women's economic security statement at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.
She said Australia has taken great strides in improving women's economic independence and security in the past few decades, with more women in work than ever before and the gender pay gap narrowing.
...The coalition's plan is focused on increasing women's workforce participation, supporting their economic independence and improving their earning potential.
A Government website explains what a "women's economic security statement" is:
The Statement builds upon the Australian Government’s strong progress in supporting women’s economic security, with a focus on three key pillars:
Here's the thing. The "technology" for creating women's economic security used to be, until quite recently, the family. Fathers, husbands, brothers, grandfathers and uncles were all charged with the responsibility of building the wealth that would keep families prosperous and secure.
But here we have a right-liberal government, not a leftist one, displacing the role of the family in creating economic security for women. It is a mindset in which there is a picture of an independent (i.e. autonomous) female careerist supported via government policies and tax money to be economically secure. The individual and the centralised state. The individual and Leviathan.
The "sideways" relationships are no longer as important. Family loses one of its longstanding functions. The provider role of men is downgraded. And one more step is taken toward a hollowing out of society.
The important thing is to understand the process. We are near the end point of a vast social experiment that has been going on for several hundred years. When you hear young women say "I feel like I don't need a man" it is not because they have been gripped by some sort of bad faith but because they are the end products of a social experiment that has been embedded into society for many generations. The end point of this experiment is exactly to create atomised individuals who don't need each other and who look instead to the state for support.
The right wing forms of liberalism are not going to help in retrieving the situation, because once you accept the aim of creating an autonomous individual you are going to use the power of the state to dissolve the preliberal institutions and norms, including family relationships, through which individual life was previously supported and sustained.
It is not just one particular policy that needs to be re-examined, but the social experiment itself. It needs to be declared an aberration within the longer development of Western culture and society. We need to return to the understanding of the nature of man and his purposes that once made the West great - a healthy and prospering civilisation rather than one in visible decline.