Will liberalism continue to be successful?
Why does liberal society function as well as it does? Ordinary people and theoreticians complain about it, its proponents have trouble defending it coherently, and its imminent demise has been announced since long before any of us were born. Nonetheless, it is more widespread and firmly rooted than ever and in its development it goes from victory to victory. Most people aren’t willing to say so explicitly, but it is generally viewed as the final form of human society, a permanent achievement that has definitively triumphed and can never be superseded.
What is going on? Is liberalism strong in spite of seeming weakness or weak in spite of seeming strength? It is difficult to view such a dominant outlook from a perspective that is independent enough to allow assessment of its true strength. Several lines of thought seem relevant, however:
So what now? The liberal democracies continue to prosper economically and grow in power relative to the rest of the world. No real alternative to liberalism has appeared. Nonetheless failures are appearing that seem likely to be decisive in the coming decades because in principle they make it impossible for liberal society to continue and it’s quite unclear what resources there are in liberal society that will make it possible to deal with them. The most notable of these is the inability of liberal society to reproduce itself, culturally—the corruption of education, intellectual life and even science is a serious matter—or even physically. Another is the increasing inability of liberal elites to think or engage in self-limitation or self-criticism. Another is growing corruption and self-seeking in public life. Again, the problem is not so much that these things are problems as that it appears that as liberalism develops it becomes less and less able to deal with them.
Still, a system that is dead in principle can stumble on a surprisingly long time if nothing is available to replace it. So the
key question for the next few decades is likely to be whether ways of life at odds with liberalism—radical Islam or traditionalist
Christianity, for example—will be attractive enough to gain and hold enough adherents to give liberalism genuine competition.
This is a promising beginning for an article or book I suggested to Mr. Kalb some time ago, which would explore HOW the liberal system functions so well despite the fact that it is based on manifest lies and suppression of truth, along with the question of how long it can continue functioning. No such study exists as far as I know.
The point about science is fascinating. As Mr. Kalb has often pointed out, liberalism is an application of the scientific mindset to politics. But liberalism also advances the belief in human equality, which ultimately undermines science (1) by demanding that all racial groups and both sexes play an equally important role in science; (2) by suppressing scientific truth that disproves the belief in human equality; and (3) by challenging the very idea of objectively validated truth because it “privileges” some “truths” over others, a view that undermines science itself.Posted by: Lawrence Auster on June 4, 2002 7:05 PM