Sunday, January 22, 2017

Liberalism is dead. Now what ?

Extremely important and clarifying, if you’re curious how we got here, and why, what has to go and what has to stay, this is from Patrick Daneen linked at bottom. It’s long, here are the money quotes :

"Liberalism's two revolutions—its anthropological individualism and the voluntarist conception of choice, and its insistence on the human separation from and opposition to nature—created its distinctive and new understanding of liberty as the most extensive possible expansion of the human sphere of autonomous activity in the service of the fulfillment of the self. 

Liberalism rejects the ancient and preliberal conception of liberty as the learned capacity of human beings to govern their base and hedonistic desires....Societies that understand liberty this way pursue the comprehensive formation and education of individuals and citizens in the art and virtue of self-rule.

Liberty, so defined, requires in the first instance liberation from all forms of associations and relationships—from the family, church, and schools to the village and neighborhood and the community broadly defined—that exerted strong control over behavior largely through informal and habituated expectations and norms.

These forms of control were largely cultural, not political—law was generally less extensive, and existed largely as a continuation of cultural norms, the informal expectations of behavior that were largely learned through family, church, and community. With the liberation of individuals from these associations and membership based upon individual choice, the need for impositions of positive law to regulate behavior grows. 

....gratitude to the past and obligations to the future are replaced by a near-universal pursuit of immediate gratification: Culture, rather than imparting the wisdom and experience of the past toward the end of cultivating virtues of self-restraint and civility, instead becomes synonymous with hedonic titillation, visceral crudeness, and distraction, all oriented toward promoting a culture of consumption, appetite, and detachment. As a result, seemingly self-maximizing but socially destructive behaviors begin to predominate in society.

....the endless quest for fewer obstacles to self-fulfillment and greater power to actuate the ceaseless cravings of the human soul requires ever-accelerating forms of economic growth and pervasive consumption. L

The sole object and justification of this indifference to human ends—of the emphasis on “Right” over the “Good”—is nevertheless premised on the embrace of the liberal human as a self-fashioning individual and self-expressive consumer. 

Liberalism can function only by the constant increase of available and consumable material goods and satisfactions, and thus by constantly expanding humanity’s conquest and mastery of nature. No matter the political program of today’s leaders, more is the incontestable program. No person can aspire to a position of political leadership through a call for limits and self-command.

The twin outcomes of this effort, the depletion of moral self-command and the depletion of material resources.... 

So long as the dominant narrative of individual choice aimed at the satisfaction of appetite and consumption dominates in the personal or economic realms, the ethic of liberalism will continue to dominate our society.

The right embraces a market orthodoxy that places the choosing, autonomous individual at the center of its economic theory...It seeks to promote family values but denies that the market undermines many of the values that undergird family life. The left commends sexual liberation as the best avenue to achieve individual autonomy, while nonsensically condemning the immorality of a marketplace in which sex is the best sales pitch."

Patrick Daneen

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