How the modern liberal paradigm of the total equality of all selves evolved
In a discussion
in 2006 I disagreed with the idea that the main source of modern liberalism is Nietzsche, along with the postmodernism which stems from Nietzsche. As I see it, modern liberalism is a natural outgrowth of—liberalism.
… My concern is not postmodernism with its radical denial of any truth at all, of any meaning in language. That is the most extreme stage of liberalism. But the most extreme stage of liberalism was not necessary in order for our culture to be destroyed, The main current of Western liberalism has been enough to do that, and therefore focusing on the most extreme stage of liberalism can be a distraction from our main problem.
—end of initial entry—
Further I don’t think the main current of modern Western liberalism came out of Nietzsche. I think it came out of liberalism itself, as a natural development of the denial of transcendence, which leads to the idea of the equality of wills. Now Mark D. may disagree and say that we only got to the definition of society as a collection of equal wills as a result of Nietzsche’s attack on reason, which was then adopted by liberals. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t see it.
Here’s how I see it. First the transcendent is denied, leaving only one little abstract sliver of the transcendent in place, namely the universal idea of equal rights. This is “right-liberalism.” Right-liberalism believes in equal rights and equal procedures under the law. But because right-liberalism has already denied so much of the substantial and transcendent structure of existence, while making the idea of equality the highest idea, the idea of equality, facing no countervailing understandings and values, metastasizes into an all encompassing paradigm. Bush and Rice and the neocons, with their credo that all people in the world are the same and are ready for democracy because they have the same human desires, are not Nietzscheans. The church groups that seek open borders are not Nietzscheans. John Paul II with his demand for the Christ-like sacrifice of Western cultures to Third-World immigrants was not a Nietzschean. So the destruction of the West is not driven by the postmodern attack on all meaning, though of course the postmodernism greatly worsens the situation. The destruction of the West is caused by the extreme belief in equality, which is a natural outgrowth of the older liberalism, and which would arguably have appeared even if Nietzsche had never lived.
Alan Roebuck writes:
I agree with you when you say
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 20, 2008 10:43 AM | Send
The destruction of the West is caused by the extreme belief in equality, which is a natural outgrowth of the older liberalism, and which would arguably have appeared even if Nietzsche had never lived.
One of the first books on postmodernism I ever read (an anthology; I don’t remember the title) asserted that postmodernism is actually the latest stage of modernism: If God is denied, and man becomes the measure of all things, then, since man is finite and fallible, we cannot have any certainty that we know anything except the immediate and the mundane. This naturally leads to relativism and radical skepticism, although some find these to be personally distasteful, in which case they stick to the modernist’s unwarranted optimism about our ability to know.
And since man cannot live under a regime of nihilism, something at least quasi-transcendent is required. For contemporary Western man, equality becomes the god. Perhaps this is because equality is the easiest to assert, since it requires no difficult analyses and no hard choices.