The Ends of Liberalism

Brooks on Recent Books Touching on Liberalism:

Francis Fukuyama wrote “Liberalism and Its Discontents” in American Purpose, which is the best single primer to the long-running debate about the liberal order.

“Classical liberalism can best be understood as an institutional solution to the problem of governing over diversity,” Fukuyama writes. It does this by “deliberately not specifying higher goals of human life.” It leaves people free to decide their own values, their own form of worship. Liberalism is thus perpetually unsatisfying to those trying to build a perfectly just or virtuous society because it is neutral about many ultimate concerns. There’s a void that often gets filled with consumerism.”


2PR or Not-To-P [GL]:

The contradiction between domestic- and foreign-focused becomes clearer when one recognizes that liberals do not apply the same ultimate-judgment-free standard outside of their own societies. The right to protect, that is to invade other countries (R2P), is in fact based on deliberately specifying higher goals and values, e.g. that democracy as practiced in the “West” is inherently superior to other forms of governance.


Postliberal Epistemology

Tara Isabella Burton takes the argument one level deeper in her essay “Postliberal Epistemology” in Comment. Liberalism, she argues, was based on a view of the human person now being rejected on left and right. A person, Enlightenment liberalism holds, is essentially rational and disembodied. If people use reason properly, they will come to the same logical results.

For more and more millennials, in particular, she argues, this view is insufficient: “In rendering human rationality disembodied, it also renders human beings interchangeable, reproducible, not incarnations but instantiations of a vague generic.”