The normality of liberalism
something as radical as inclusiveness ideology normal, so
that if you disagree with it you’re an irrational extremist? Some
- Everything is bureaucratic or world market-oriented today, and
bureaucracies and world markets find it easier to operate on explicit
quantitative impersonal principles that ignore complex human
relationships like sex and ethnicity. It therefore seems
irrational and even antisocial—opposed to the principles that make
orderly common action possible—to take such relationships seriously.
- Since everything is to be dealt with in a rational, explicit,
quantitative, and impersonal way, everything important should be handled
by experts. The duty of the public in a democracy is therefore to listen
to what the experts tell them, believe it, and reject everything else as
prejudiced and ignorant. Expertise is not as neutral as advertised,
however. For example, experts can be relied on to favor handling
bureaucratically everything world markets can’t take care of—otherwise
their expertise can’t be brought to bear in a systematic way. It follows
they will always end up opposing autonomous traditional institutions
like family, religion and ethnic ties.
- It’s troublesome to recognize troublesome issues. If the only way to
avoid talking seriously about things like race and sex is to say they
shouldn’t matter at all then that’s what people will say and they’ll be
annoyed if anyone says different. If the authorities say the way to make
them not matter is to reverse their effects through affirmative action
or obfuscate their significance and consequences through diversity
programs—that is, to lock race and sex preferences in place—it’s too
much trouble to make a fuss. You’d have to think seriously about
difficult topics, and besides, you can’t argue with the authorities about
basic points without contesting the whole structure of expert social
policy. And that would indeed be extremism.
- Doublemindedness and refusal to make obvious connections. This
sometimes bothers the Left, as in the case of women who say they’re not
feminists but expect everything feminism can give them. Mostly though
the tendency allows the Left to advance its goals while traditional
forms remain intact. Mainstream American Christianity is an obvious
example—doctrines are eviscerated or reversed, the faithful fall away
in droves, and scandal succeeds scandal. Meanwhile, religious
professionals claim the changes in the churches have been an
unprecedented gift of the Holy Spirit, and the man (more likely woman)
in the pew goes along out of fear of being odd, divisive, out of date,
intolerant, resistant to change, or whatever. Any coherent protest would
call too much into question, so it becomes impossible. The schools are
another example—the very ordinariness of schooling and the faith
Americans have always placed in it means that anything whatever can
happen in schools and as long as it’s what the experts want people
All these things have to do with accepted understandings of rationality
and knowledge, which are associated with dominant forms of social
organization. As long as knowledge and rationality are identified with
expertise, and as long as world markets and transnational or
multicultural bureaucracies are authoritative throughout social life,
traditionalism will fail.
The basic difficulty traditionalists face is therefore the need to
change what is understood by knowledge and rationality, and what the
dominant social structures are in major areas of social life. The most
likely way that will happen is through the self-destruction of
liberalism as a philosophy and mode of social organization. How and when
that happens is mostly outside anyone’s control. We can contribute
though by developing an alternative and living by it. The battle for
tradition today is most fundamentally a battle of the spirit rather than
practical politics. We must insist on a different conception of
knowledge, reason and the normal.
Posted by Jim Kalb at June 24, 2002 05:51 PM | Send
Why do pop libertarians like Virginia Postrel claim technocracy is dead? Are they simply in denial?
The crass version of this argument is her awful book “The Future and Its Enemies.” This is a classic in the genre of shrill tablebanging and anyone-who-disagrees-with-me-is-a-fascist rhetoric. A more intelligently written take on the same thesis is “Against the Dead Hand” by Brink Lindsey.
Curiously, both these authors are professional libertarian apologists and hardcore bloggers.
Its interesting to note that only stand-up comics can, and do, say what everyone is thinking.
Pop libertarians don’t take PC seriously because they agree with the understanding of the world it reflects. Both reject God, nature and culture and want to replace them with human will, raw material, and technology. The difference between them is only tactical, how to make the change socially effective.
Mr. Kalb’s idea that “The experts say that everything world markets can’t take care of should be handled bureaucratically” helps explain the conceptual puzzle of why globalization moves simultaneously toward a borderless free market AND toward a One-World egalitarian tyranny.