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.

5 thoughts on “Liberalism”

    • Mark Richardson fleshes out the implications a bit
      Will, I agree that Scruton quote entered in Kevin Michael Grace’s log is quite good:

      “Around 1963 the philosopher Michael Polanyi presented his theory of ‘moral inversion,’ according to which disapproval once directed at an activity may become directed instead at the people who still disapprove of it. By moral inversion we protect ourselves from our previous beliefs and from the guilt of discarding them. Moral inversion has infected the debate about sexual inversion to the point of silencing it. To suggest that it would be better if children were not exposed to homosexuality or encouraged to think of it as normal, that the gay scene is not the innocent thing that it claims to be but a form of sexual predation—to make those suggestions now, however hesitantly, is to lay yourself open to the charge of ‘homophobia.’ And this will spell the end of your career in any place, such as a university, which has freedom of opinion as its guiding purpose. In this area, as in so many others, the ruling principle of liberalism applies; namely, all opinions are permitted, so long as they are liberal.”

      If this theory of moral inversion is valid (and I’m not certain it is completely, though it probably is in part), Mark Richardson gives what may be an example of it as it relates to the modern-day elevation of homosexuality to the level of something inviolable, almost sacred, almost revered, almost worshipped, from its former status as a thing disapproved of though tolerated. Essentially what happened was (in Sweden, of course—where else!) a lesbian was awarded huge damages after being asked not to make out with her girlfriend in a restaurant. In his log entry, Mark concludes,

      “I suppose there are two disturbing aspects of the case. The first is the legal one, in which laws can be suddenly ‘reinterpreted’ in order to secure the ‘right’ result and in which you can be assumed to be guilty if someone feels you have discriminated against them. The second is that the case makes it more difficult for individuals to uphold traditional standards in their own private businesses. Basically, you now have to accept very overt displays of homosexuality or be heavily fined. The older understanding, in which there was a broad tolerance for homosexuals on the basis that the homosexuality itself was toned down in public, may not be the way of the future.”


      Long live Flanders!

      • Legal protections trashed in the service of anti-discrimination
        “Braveheart,” a Belgian, has posted a comment in the thread underneath Mark Richardson’s log entry in which he describes the situation in Belgium:

        “In Belgium the judges don’t even have to reinterpret the law. There simply already is reverse proof of innocence in cases of suspected ‘discrimination.’ But traditionally Justice normally won’t do anything. Only the lawyers of the notorious ‘Centre for Equal Opportunities’ have the (financial) means to possibly start the ‘right’ procedure that forces the Judiciary to start a criminal investigation. I am no lawyer myself, but as far as I have understood, if they claim to have undergone harm, an ‘investigating judge’ MUST be appointed. Only to say, that if they really have it in for you, they can make it tough for you too. This is no coincidence. And the following I can’t prove, but I suppose they will only stir themselves if there is political ‘added value’ in the case, also because their board is politically composed.”


        Long live Flanders!

      • this isn’t the first time someone has thought along these lines
        Fred, I recall some somewhat complementary essays somewhat related to this – Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynahan wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Down”, which, if I recall correctly, was about redefining what was formerly seen as criminal activities and intents as merely manifestations of mental illnesses and such, and so making the perps seem like victims rather than their victims. Similarly, Charles Krauthammer wrote an essay entitled “Defining Deviancy Up”, about that previously considered normal – heterosexual two-parent families where the husband and father is more or less the head – ends up slammed by feminists as tyrannical, horrible, oppressive, blah blah blah…

        IMO, these sorts of tendencies appear to be manifestations of “moral inversion”…

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