Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Modern liberalism and destruction of society...

Read here.

Here's a taste:

Modern liberalism is committed to the idea that no substantive objective norms exist, and that all value claims are therefore equally subjective, equally valid and equally empty. Liberalism is therefore really a philosophy of power. For if there are no objective limits to human volition (which is all that liberal freedom means), then for liberals will and self-grounding and self-validating choice is all there is. In a society without objective values, will and power become the only source of value. Finding itself confronted with the competing claims of isolated and potentially warring individuals, the liberal state thus takes the only path it can to ensure peace. It enforces a purely formal contractualist and utilitarian order, void of any notion of an inherent good or a guiding telos. This in turn ensures that the price of individual liberty is a purely notional equality, which cashes out as a liberal indifference to difference and the formal erasure of any cultural distinction in favour of an enforced judicial uniformity.

For example, the liberal state claims a purely formal equality without accounting for the real differences of culture, character or wealth. Failing to account for the latter ensures that all substantive issues are left to private contractual resolution - a relationship where the most powerful individual is always dominant. This is why liberal democratic states which promise a formal equality of opportunity are also synonymous with material inequality, the destruction of a plural and a high culture and the increasing rule of unprincipled elites. The liberal failure to think about community leaves less powerful individuals at the contractual mercy of the more potent; just as the liberal state destroys differential communities, as it believes that in order to secure equal rights we all have to be the same.


I do not want to pretend that all was wrong in the late 1960s left. The opposition to the war in Vietnam seems just and noble, as does the campaign for civil rights and the advancement and liberation of women. Moreover, many of those on the new left were not cultural iconoclasts they also wished to preserve high culture and extend its benefit to all. However, what requires analysis is how this legacy decayed into mindless consumerism and an aggressive low culture founded on the hedonism of a relentless and mindless sexualisation of culture. A development that has robbed children of their childhood, freed men from any responsibility to women and condemned women to a male model of advancement at great cost to themselves and their offspring.

The victory of economic liberalism in 1979 could not have happened without the New Left's cultural libertarianism of the late 1960s. The cultural politics of the left was (and still is) in covert and complicit alliance with the neoliberal right. Through the late 1960s politics of desire, the left constructed the political anthropology of a wholly self-interested libertarian self. Not content with sidelining the autonomous institutions of the working class through the medium of the state, new left liberals set about destroying their collective culture of mutual and reciprocal virtue. Decrying the white working class as unfashionable, religious and reactionary, decadent middle-class elites looked with disdain on settled patterns of sexual codes, moral responsibilities and extended families. In the name of individual liberty, the avant garde licensed pornography, drugs and sexual experimentation as aesthetic forms of self-expression. But in so doing they commodified the human body and allowed the most exploitative forms of capitalism to shape and define sexuality, desire and human relationships. Such that at the end of the 1960s a new a-social being was created. Self-enclosed and relentlessly in search of glamour and stimulation, this new left creation sought a politics of limitless self interest. Defining all others by reference to itself, it considered any restriction on freedom as a violation of choice and a restriction of will. It was thought that both will and choice should be thoroughly unconstrained, and here we can see that left-wing values were already proto-Thatcherite and entirely neoliberal.

The left was fatally undermined when it embraced equality through the state and liberty through the individual - a paradigm that is liberal in origin and fatal to the idea of the communal. For unless community is thought of as the primary category, equality and liberty conspire against fraternity.


Perhaps the least developed aspect of the current conservative renaissance is the most important: culture itself. Conservatism may well provide the institutions and funding for a revival of civil society, and if it limits the state to achieve this, then it might also, to attain a similar end, constrain the market. But what is most crucial is that we have a culture of interactivity and mutuality to fill this vacated space. Currently, with our emphasis on glamour and sedentary pleasure, we wholly lack any defenders of a high culture. Instead we have a debased public realm of constructed gratification and unreflective demand. High culture is high not because of any perceived elitism on the basis of class, but because the better is superior to the worse, and the good is desirable over and above any evil. We can have any form of public space we want, but unless the Conservatives really go back to the future and try to restore a common but high civilization, one that binds all Britons together in a vision of a culture worth participating and believing in, then we will fragment into the self-interested libertarian subjects that we so very nearly already are. A recovery of a national virtue culture is required. One that allows all the different cultures, races and creeds of modern Britain to eschew multi-culturalism and create a new binding common way of life of shared values and higher belief. For it is only on this basis that something called society can be restored.

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