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Liberalism

Liberalism is the victorious form of political modernity. As a modern tendency, it treats human will as the source of value and tries to rationalize all things by reference to it as the standard. What distinguishes it from other modern tendencies is that it treats every will as equal. Its ultimate goal, therefore, is to turn human society into an integrated machine for the rational equal satisfaction of desire.

Other forms of political modernity include fascism and communism. These differ from liberalism by their refusal to treat wills as equal. That refusal justifies the struggle for personal power and dominance, and so makes possible things people find attractive—comradeship in struggle, subordination to a collective will, and the joy of smashing the enemy. However, each has been refuted by its own standard of justification: fascism was defeated in war, and communism overthrown by the development of the forces of production. Since they have refuted themselves they are unlikely to rise again, and the victory of liberalism within modernity appears secure. Nonetheless, the things in fascism and communism that have enduring appeal, like the justification of tyranny and hatred, are sure to keep reappearing as part of any generally liberal order. (Consider, for example, PC and the hateful liberal attitude toward “bigotry” and “bigots.”)

To say liberalism has been victorious is not to say it will endure forever. Like other phases of history, modernity (including postmodernity) and thus liberalism will someday come to an end. My PC and the Crisis of Liberalism goes into some of the contradictions that in the end are likely to bring them down. I discuss other aspects of the issue in the references below.

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