Liberalism is the ruling ideology of our age. It is the dominant political belief which is radically transforming our society. As Professor John Schwarzmantel puts it:
Contemporary liberal-democracy is an ideological society, where a particular version of liberalism prevails
There is a destructive side to liberalism. The key liberal belief is that we are made human through autonomy: through our ability to self-determine or to self-define. Professor John Kekes writes:
the true core of liberalism, the inner citadel for whose protection all the liberal battles are waged [is] autonomy
How are people made autonomous? They must be “liberated” from whatever is predetermined rather than self-determined. This includes their sex (being masculine or feminine), their ethny (inherited forms of communal identity), traditional forms of family life (since these are given to us rather than self-defined), and objective forms of morality (since under the logic of liberalism the good must also be self-defined).
What liberalism replaces these with is a vision of a society made up of blank slate, atomised individuals, in pursuit of their own subjective, self-generated good.
This is destructive because it means having to make things which matter a great deal not matter. Most people, for instance, do identify in important ways with a distinct, inherited national tradition; they do not look forward to its replacement by a more radically individualistic existence within an international system.
Similarly, most people identify positively with being a man or a woman and do not wish to suppress this identity within an androgynous society which is hostile to sex distinctions.
The effects of liberalism are felt by many people to be symptoms of social breakdown or decline. But this then raises the question of how liberalism has been able to maintain its dominance. How has liberalism been able to limit effective opposition to its grip on Western societies?
Second tier arguments
One part of the answer is that liberalism has been able to limit political debate to second tier arguments. The underlying assumptions of liberalism are rarely brought to the surface and argued about. Instead, debate is limited to a secondary question, namely how do you best regulate a liberal society made up of millions of atomised, individual wills?
How you answer this question determines where you are placed on the political spectrum. Those on the right tend to believe that society is best regulated by the free market. It is typical for right-liberals to believe that individuals can compete in the market for their own profit and that the hidden hand of the market will regulate the outcome for the overall prosperity and progress of society.
Right-liberals therefore tend to focus on Economic Man: man in his role as a rational economic agent. Originally, right-liberals tended to be anti-statist, as they saw state intervention as distorting the mechanism of the market. These days it is the more radical right-liberals, the libertarians, who maintain this anti-statist position.
Those on the left are more skeptical that a liberal society can be regulated by the market. They see the market as generating inequalities, which then makes it harder for some to pursue a self-defining lifestyle. They think it more egalitarian and more rational for society to be regulated by the neutral expertise of a state bureaucracy. The focus of the left is not so much on Economic Man but on Social Man.
The further left you go on the political spectrum, the more anti-capitalist you become (so that Marxism is correctly thought of as being far left).
The case of the UK
Let’s take the UK as an example. A newspaper columnist like Theo Hobson is not shy when it comes to declaring his support for the state ideology:
All we seek is a reassertion of liberalism as the nation's common ideology.
He can assert this confidently because both major parties in the UK are committed to liberalism. The so-called Conservative Party, for instance, is currently led by David Cameron. He looks on his party as a “champion of liberal values”:
today we have a Conservative Party … which wants Britain to be a positive participant in the EU, as a champion of liberal values.
So the Conservatives are liberals. More specifically they are right-liberals, as they prefer to have society regulated by a free market rather than by a centralised state. That’s why Cameron has declared that his party “supports open markets,” is “committed to decentralisation and localism," and aims to strengthen “our economy by freeing the creators of wealth, especially small businesses, to create the jobs and prosperity we need.”
And what of the left? Beatrice Webb defined the project of the left back in 1928. Rather than relying on the market to regulate society, the left was motivated by,
our common faith in a deliberately organised society – our belief in the application of science to human relations … the common people, served by an elite of unassuming experts
This is the technocratic solution to regulating liberal society. Ed Miliband is the current leader of the Labour Party in the UK. In setting out his political agenda he warned,
Our society is at risk of being reshaped in ways that will devastate the proud legacy of liberalism. We see a free market philosophy being applied to our schools …
Miliband is defining his politics exactly as you would expect a left-liberal to do: he commits himself to liberalism, but is not so keen on free market solutions.
Those who support the two main parties can be passionate in their allegiances. That can make it seem as if we have more choice than we really do. We really only get a choice as to how best to regulate liberalism, not whether we want to continue to run society along liberal lines. And yet it is the liberalism itself that is doing the damage.
We need to open up politics, so that the important first tier issues are more widely understood and discussed.
"They must be “liberated” from whatever is predetermined rather than self-determined. This includes ... their ethny (inherited forms of communal identity),"ReplyDelete
Worth noting that it is only whitey who has to be liberated from his racial and ethnic and national identity, meaning in practice that any expression of racial or ethnic or national pride must be shamed and suppressed, and the history of his race and nation(s) must be taught as a long litany of horrendous crimes. Non-white races, ethnic groups, and nations, on the other hand, are not to be liberated from their primitive racial / ethnic / national pride, oh my word no. Their pride must be celebrated and reinforced, and their (usually negligible) achievements celebrated! So really, is this about "autonomy" at all? Or is liberalism about undermining and marginalizing the traditional Right in white Western countries in order to increase the political power of the Left?
You can say the same about the other forms of autonomy; they are internally inconsistent, and applied hypocritically to the detriment of the traditional Right. For example, liberalism most definitely has an "objective" system of morality that acts to the detriment of the Right, i.e., there are actions and beliefs that they consider "evil" (especially if whitey does it or thinks it) that nobody is permitted to self-define as "good".
"What liberalism replaces these with is a vision of a society made up of blank slate, atomised individuals, in pursuit of their own subjective, self-generated good."
I don't agree. Liberalism has a vision of society in which individuals pursue a "good" that is generated for them by the self-appointed elite, not that is self-generated.
liberalism most definitely has an "objective" system of morality that acts to the detriment of the Right, i.e., there are actions and beliefs that they consider "evil" (especially if whitey does it or thinks it) that nobody is permitted to self-define as "good".ReplyDelete
The liberal "good" is that everyone should be equally free to define their own good. So the "evil" is to deny individuals a right to be equally free to self-define.
So, yes, liberals can and do hold things in moral contempt and act to coercively prevent such evil from occurring. As one right-liberal (Johan Norberg) put it:
"We should force everybody to accept every other human being as a free and autonomous individual"
That's why liberal morality has to do not with traditional standards of personal morality but issues such as equal opportunity, all the "isms" (racism, sexism etc), discrimination, tolerance, pluralism etc.
These are all aimed at breaking down perceived limitations or inequalities in how people can choose to behave or what they can choose to become and so on.
Yes, there are bundles of issues here, including the fact that liberalism ends up making illegitimate the more important identities and activities in favour of more trivial ones.
Nonetheless, liberals are trying to put a system in place. It happens to be an ultimately destructive system.
it is only whitey who has to be liberated from his racial and ethnic and national identityReplyDelete
Well, it goes like this. If people are going to self-define, that means that they must be equally blank slates.
Therefore, in a liberal world, there ought to be no significant differences between the races.
But white liberals can't help but notice that there are, in fact, such differences.
In the societies white liberals live in, whites seem to dominate and have the upper hand.
How could this be if we are all equally blank slates to begin with?
Right-liberals tend to see it as a blip of history that progress is destined to overcome. Therefore, right liberals (originally at least) do believe in the "race blind" view of things (that's the message, for instance, of prominent Australian right-liberal journalist Andrew Bolt).
But left-liberals are more "anti" their own society. They see themselves as dissenters. They don't let the white majority off so lightly.
Left-liberals believe that whites created the whole category of race in order to dominate others. Therefore, white history necessarily becomes a history of oppression of the non-white other.
That is how left-liberals explain white dominance. It has the nice consequence for them, too, of breaking down the effect of tradition in their own society, something that nearly all liberals seek to do instinctively.
And what of the other races? First, since whites invented race and racism, the ethnicity of other people is not held to be morally compromised the way that the white one is. So it isn't viewed in such hostile terms. It's harmless.
Second, non-whites are allowed to identify with their constructed racial category as a means of resisting oppression. They are not supposed to "reify" (hold the identity to have a real essence). It becomes a kind of positive political identity.
Finally, as Lawrence Auster often points out, the existence of the non-white other allows white liberals to prove their liberal credentials relative to other whites.
Re 'opening up the debate':ReplyDelete
The Protestant tradition, from which I come, seems to be unable to articulate an intellectual critique of Liberalism. There are Protestant forces opposed to parts of Liberalism, eg the US 'Religious Right', but they seem aggressively anti-intellectual. This can be a strength - they can't be 'out argued' - but also limits their ability to convince others.
Catholicism seems much more capable of mounting an intellectual defence of non-liberal principles, in ways convincing to non-Catholics. Perhaps this is why the Protestant Religous Right in the US is so willing to put Catholic conservative judges on the Supreme Court.
Overall though it seems that there will be a massive societal shift before Liberal hegemony is challanged. My fear is that that challenge, at least in Europe, comes solely from Sharia, and that non-Muslims will both become subject to Sharia and remain subject to Liberalism, thus being unable even to articulate a defense against either.
The liberal "good" is that everyone should be equally free to define their own good.ReplyDelete
But that's not true. Everyone is not equally free to define blacks as inferior; to plunder the earth and the oceans for profit; to decide how much pollution to generate; to decide not to hire blacks or women; to decide not to admit non-whites to a social club; and so on. You are simply not free to self-define racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-environmentalism, or any number of other liberals "goods" as "evil", because an external force (including, very importantly, the government) will not let you.
One cannot view "autonomy" and "self-determination" as the holy grails of liberalism. They're not. They're like the Constitution in the USA -- they are only sacred when they operate in favor of the Left, but they are ignored when they operate in favor of the Right.
The holy grail of liberalism is political power -- increasing theirs, decreasing ours. Talking about anything else is tilting at windmills. I feel sure that as soon as they have enough political power, "autonomy" will go out the window. There was no "autonomy" in the USSR; the very idea constituted anti-social parasitism, and probably grounds for confinement in a state mental institution.
Anon - I think the idea is that everyone is supposed to value Autonomy, but valuing disapproved-of forms of autonomy is a sign of mental illness and/or false consciousness.ReplyDelete
I also think that traditionalists should not underestimate the extent to which Liberalism since 1945 has been influenced by cultural Marxism; even right-Liberalism.
But that's not true. Everyone is not equally free to define blacks as inferior; to plunder the earth and the oceans for profit; to decide how much pollution to generate; to decide not to hire blacks or women; to decide not to admit non-whites to a social club; and so on.ReplyDelete
But, the environmental points aside, these are forbidden precisely because they are seen to violate the equal autonomy rule.
For instance, careers are thought to be an important aspect of individual autonomy. That's why it's considered a great blot on the past that women focused on motherhood rather than careers. So to discriminate against women in careers violates the "I am equally autonomous" therefore "I am equally human" mode of liberal thinking.
You can define your own good as long as it does not violate equal autonomy.
In effect, this places an extraordinary number of restrictions on how we can define the good.
You also have to take into account particular leftist developments within liberalism.
Remember, liberals start out assuming that we are "equal" in the sense of being equally blank slates, so that it is only our personal character or personal interests and talents which determine our life outcomes.
We do not, in other words, have talents or interests through being a member of a particular sex or race.
Therefore, if being a member of a particular sex or race seems to have an effect on what we do in life, that jars with what liberals expect. Liberals will assume that there is a denial of the character and talent of individuals because of their sex/race.
Left liberals don't just see some benign historical progress gradually righting the situation.
They think that one "dominant" group (men, whites) has deliberately acted to deny equal autonomy to other groups. Not only that, they think that the quality through which this dominant group defines itself was created for the purposes of domination.
Therefore the construction of "whiteness" and of "masculinity" is looked on as a barrier to the achievement of the ultimate good of equal autonomy.
So we can't expect a left-liberal influenced liberalism to easily allow people to choose the good of masculinity or whiteness. Instead, the focus will be on breaking up the formation of these entities.
" How has liberalism been able to limit effective opposition to its grip on Western societies? "ReplyDelete
For the purposes of a pamphlet, I think this article leaves this important question too much unanswered. This question is a vital opportunity to address the unpersuaded reader about the possible biases he has absorbed from a liberal society.
Businesses which make widgets and newspapers now see promoting diversity and feminism as objectives almost as important as their primary mission. Why?
There used to be very strong white ethnic and religious groups with their own neighborhoods and newspapers. What happened to them?
My own answers to this question involve anti-discrimination law and the way it empowered liberal experts by banning traditional institutions and cultures. White ethnic/religious groups could once self-segregate very easily by means as simple as housing and work advertisements in their subculture's papers.
But laws barred many of these advertisements, thus taking away economic support from the non-liberal press.
My pet topics aside, I suggest expanding the section about how liberalism limits opposition before going into a discussion of the distinction between market and statist liberalism.
Mark a good article but I wouldn't use it as an advertisement.ReplyDelete
Marketing dictates that 25 words is enough for a leaflet, you want them to come to the site to find out if they like it, not preach.
At the psychological level, it needs pointing out that left liberals have an internal contradiction between their desire to be individualistic and anti-majoritarian and their desire to belong to a group and be dependent on others.ReplyDelete
Think of those High School misfit groups like Goths who look different to the majority but all hang about with people like themselves.
Multiculturalism is now putting unbearable strain on these two contradictory tendencies in progressive liberalism, since even though progressive like to respect the views of fellow minorities, many of the minority groups coming to the West don't respect individualism. For Muslims for example, left liberals are merely useful idiots they will have to push aside in the future.
Liberals have all kinds of justification for why they don't actually believe in autonomy for white hetero males, but the fact remains that they do not believe in autonomy for white hetero males (or for women who want to be traditional wives and mothers). Autonomy is a hypocritical sham whose primary purpose is to serve as a stick to beat the Left's enemies with. That is why focusing on autonomy is a waste of time. There is no coherent and internally consistent ideology at work, which is why what it means to be "progressive" is a moving target that changes over time. It's all about what works now, today, to defeat the enemies of the day.ReplyDelete
Anon, but liberals do agree with autonomy for white hetero males.ReplyDelete
Autonomy means being liberated from whatever is predetermined, so that it is only our individual character and our uniquely personal talents which define who we are and what shapes our life.
If this is true, then inherited, inborn characteristics (ethnicity, sexual identity, sexuality) shouldn't play a role.
So a liberal would have a hard time understanding your complaint. They wouldn't understand that they are denying you anything. They think that they are giving you something, their version of freedom.
If anything, liberals think that white hetero men already have too much autonomy. That we don't have the limits on autonomy that others do. That our privilege allows us to live blind to ethnicity in a way that others cannot. That our sex is "normative" and therefore unselfconsciously "human", whereas women are a "sexed" class who have to live as women.
We are privileged, think (some) liberals, because we are free of sex identity and race in a way that others aren't able to be.
They are a million miles away from understanding:
a) that we don't seek the privilege of being non-ethnic and non-sexed
b) that if we do identify as being ethnic or sexed it's not to uphold categories of dominance or oppression
c) we consider ethnic and sexual identities as being a formative and fulfilling aspect of human identity and, therefore, given the attacks on whiteness and masculinity we are worse off in this respect than other groups.
So a liberal would have a hard time understanding your complaint. They wouldn't understand that they are denying you anything. They think that they are giving you something, their version of freedom.ReplyDelete
Hoo boy. Try to imagine how uninterested I am in how a liberal would justify taking away my freedom (autonomy) by describing this as making me more free (autonomous). The fact of interest to me is that they are making me less free and autonomous.
Liberalism was allowed to come into being for the purpose of self-correction to Western mistakes such as neglect of the commons, various brutal aspects of slavery, and some of the more extreme forms of colonialism. Since even the perpetrators of these negative aspects could also admit that they were extreme, they allowed liberalism to gain a toehold because it seemed to promise a reasonable correction, and because it was also assumed that liberalism would still permit the primary and often unstated traditions upon which society was based to continue. Such was the naive belief. However, liberalism either by design or though its own internal transformation, morphed into a more vicious attack on ALL of Western society, such that it sought to discard all traditions and ideas believed to be in any way shape or form contributory to the prior extremes. A good example is affirmative action... it was sold as a way to set up equality of opportunity, but quickly developed into a forced equality of outcomes.ReplyDelete
Since its inception, liberalism has steadily accrued power. It has employed a strategy of evolutionary leftism, i.e., progressivism, and successfully made inroads into all areas of society. Simultaneously, the use of tactics such as manipulation of language and semantics (e.g., overgeneralizations, false analogies) have gulled a credulous, essentially good-hearted traditional populace to be lulled into complacence, until they suddenly wake up to realize the rug has been pulled out from under them, at which point it is far to late to do anything about it.