Monday 29 March 2010

Liberalism Old and New

“They spoke much of tolerance, because they needed the very same for themselves, but already at that time there was no-one more intolerant than they against all those who gainsaid their opinions.” [1]

“To the extent society becomes liberal it becomes inhuman, and as the process approaches completion the society becomes unable to function or survive.” [2]

[1] Carl Ludwig von Haller, Restauration der Staats-Wissenschaft (Winterthur: in der Steinerischen Buchhandlung, 1820), Bd.I, p.117. [“[S]ie redeten viel von Toleranz, weil sie derselbigen für sich bedurften, aber schon damals war niemand intoleranter als sie gegen alle diejenigen die ihren Meinungen widersprachen”.] Herr von Haller’s excellent book was burnt at the Wartburgfest.

[2] James Kalb, The Tyranny of Liberalism (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2008), p.141. Mr Kalb’s excellent book provides one of the best analyses of liberalism yet written, and his weblog gives one of the best summary definitions: “we’re free to be you and me, as long as the differences never matter.” ( “The One, the Many, and the Alternative Right”, Turnabout, 16th March 2010.)


dearieme said...

My comment on this posting appears as a comment to the post below. I hope you can tolerate that.

Deogolwulf said...

I'm afraid I might have to have you shot.

Deogolwulf said...


Mr Kalb doesn’t use the word in the “American” sense or exclusively in reference to one aspect, whether “classical” or “advanced”, but rather in reference to the phenomenon as a whole, tracing the unfolding of its essential principles. There is no essential difference between advanced liberalism in America and that in Europe. Liberalism is essentially the same evil it always was. Liberalism, unsurprisingly, has no tolerance for things not conducive to its own dominion, one which means a clearing-out of all bonds, strictures, and particularities which hinder the efficiency of the market and its bureau-technocratic regime. (The market serves to keep satisfied the man-pigs that liberalism has created.) The supposed neutrality, fair-mindedness, and magnanimity of liberalism are great deceits. If your values, traditions, customs, beliefs, religion, racial, ethnic and social ties, etc, do not matter, then it “tolerates” you; for it wishes to make the public sphere “neutral” (i.e., in total accordance with its principles) and free of the imposition of values (expect its own). If your values, traditions, customs, identity, and so forth do matter against the smooth levelling of society, then it persecutes you as a bigot and so forth. Presently it seeks the destruction of the major oppositional factors in the societies over which it dominates, and thus allows — nay, “celebrates” — the minor factors which are rivals thereto. But, eventually, it will act against them too, if it survives.

Classical liberalism is what liberalism looks like when it is still in opposition to ruling nonliberal regimes: it seeks to limit them, battles against them, “rains murders”, as Metternich put it, and makes a putative virtue of limiting all regimes. But it sees no limit for its own regimes. Advanced liberalism is what liberalism looks like when it dominates: when it has greatly weakened or effectively destroyed nonliberalistic factors — institutions, communities, kin-ties, traditional morality, religion, etc, independent of it, right down to personal identities — thus enabling itself to govern a homogenised mass with the greatest ease and efficiency and with the least effective opposition. [Cont. . . .]

dearieme said...

Then I must be less liberal than I thought.

Deogolwulf said...

[Sorry, Dearieme, I deleted the last part of my comment to resubmit without mistakes. Thus, your comment now sits nicely between them.]

[Cont. . . .]

Classical liberalism is its weak phase, but men like Karl Ernst von Haller, Karl Ernst Jarcke, and Adam Müller, for instance, were not in any doubt about the implications of its advanced dominion: the totalitarian-bureaucratic regime which would stand as “neutral” adjudicator to all values and particularities, eventually levelling or destroying the same as intolerable, nonliberal attitudes. The regimes we see today are no betrayal of “classical” liberalism, but the near-fulfilment of liberalism simpliciter.

Liberalism is the most insidious, destructive, genocidal, and effective of all the modern political ideologies with which it shares an origin. The others, by being crude in suppression and still bearing the marks of visible authority, as well as nonliberal and non-“neutral” values, engender opposition by populations gripped by the liberal ideology. Liberalism can destroy a nation or ruin an ancient culture more thoroughly than Marxism, and do so with hardly a shot fired against their “happy” masses, and all done with the sweetest smiles and the strongest claims to utmost tolerance.

Liberalism is a sublime totalitarian ideology which, by all the means and techniques of sophisticated propaganda, “education”, and bureau-technocratic process, would dominate every aspect of life and thought and destroy all particularities that stand apart from it. We are now dominated by the greatest totalitarian regimes yet seen. (Totalitarianism is not authoritarianism.) And they can even get their minions to declare themselves proudly the “freest men in history”! Liberalism certainly has liberated their basest passions and desires: and the liberal regimes, through technological and commercial means, can satisfy them like a great mother-sow. Men ruled by their liberated passions are the most easily debased and dominated. One just needs to pull the right strings.

Deogolwulf said...

In my first comment, "expect" should obviously read "except". Too many mistakes . . .

TDK said...

So if I understand you correctly, you are saying that the modern collectivist version of "liberalism" is the inevitable outcome of the 19th centuries individualist "liberalism"?

TDK said...

Oops! "century's"

Deogolwulf said...


There is no collectivistic version of liberalism. (Or --- safer to say --- I have no idea what you mean by it.) Liberalism is strongly individualistic. That it works actually and radically against individual persons is a practical consequence of its applying a universal-abstract individualism. Man is a social animal. Society --- a collective --- is required to actualise one’s potential as a person. There are no pre-social persons. The tendency of liberal individualism is to destroy the very functional conditions of society and to put in its place a mass-collocation of individuals bound together only by a bureau-technocratic regime. One might say that the practical consequence of individualism amounts to the ultimate divide-and-conquer.

xlbrl said...

"Advanced liberalism is what liberalism looks like when it dominates.......thus enabling itself to govern a homogenised mass with the greatest ease and efficiency and with the least effective opposition."

That would describe a process and a cycle, but not one ending in permanence, as ease and efficiency might otherwise suggest. The very fact that no liberty exist in it indicates to me that it will destroy itself in defining mediocrity downward, particularly with no enemy left to challenge it.

Deogolwulf said...


"it will destroy itself"

Almost certainly, but what will it leave behind? Mind you, technology makes for an important complicating factor.

I heartily recommend James Kalb’s book. Alisdair MacIntyre is very good on the managerial outgrowths of liberalism and how it is suited to the modern emotivistic worldview.

James Higham said...

That's precisely what has been happening recently at my place. The oh so tolerant left-liberals turned out to be anything but tolerant.

Anonymous said...

"Sir Roger L`Estrange tells us a story in his collection of Fables, of the Cock and the Horses. The Cock was gotten to roost in the stable among the horses; and there being no racks or other conveniences for him, it seems, he was forced to roost upon the ground. The horses jostling about for room, and putting the Cock in danger of his life, he gives them this grave advice, "Pray, Gentlefolks! let us stand still! for fear we should tread upon one another!" There are some people in the World, who, now they are unperched, and reduced to an equality with other people, and under strong and very just apprehensions of being further treated as they deserve, begin, with Esop`s Cock, to preach up Peace and Union and the Christian duty of Moderation; forgetting that, when they had the Power in their hands, those Graces were strangers in their gates!"

-Shortest Way with the Dissenters

Daniel Defoe

Anonymous said...

I'll have to think about this some more, but it's hard to see how the small-government, federalist liberal
democracy of Calvin Coolidge laid the groundwork for the monstrosity we have today. Maybe his famous quote "the business of America is business" provides a clue.

Unknown said...

If your values, traditions, customs, beliefs, religion, racial, ethnic and social ties, etc, do not matter, then it “tolerates” you

I think this is not quite right. The liberal state certainly does "tolerate" deep ethnic and racial ties and their associated behaviours, and even encourages, celebrates, and promotes these ties (often with federal funding dollars), except of course when they occur between members of one particular, godforsaken, evil, oppressive race...

Deogolwulf said...


I think so: “Presently it seeks the destruction of the major oppositional factors in the societies over which it dominates, and thus allows — nay, ‘celebrates’ — the minor factors which are rivals thereto.” Liberalism serves anti-white-racial aggression well. It can serve as a very useful tool for many ends, and that may often be just what ideologies are: tools for other motives, as any good Marxist can tell you. Or rather, at least, ideologies can be captured for ulterior ends.

Though one may note and trace the past and present destructiveness of liberalism, one cannot say for sure how it will work out in all its details, whether it will fully express its principles, since what an ideology entails by its principles is not necessarily what actually issues from it to its fullest extent; for either it may sometimes have motives underlying it which tend otherwise, or it may simply not follow its logical course as implicit in its principles. (What an ideology’s principles entail in the conditions of their operation, and what its actual aim is, are different matters. Marxism, for instance, aims at the condition of equal liberty; but the principle of equal liberty, in conjunction with the actual principle of its operation, namely, creatures unequal in every respect, entail great tyranny, quite irrespective of the aim. And we may note that the principle of equal liberty is at the heart of liberalism too. The ideal of equal liberty is not just a bizarre one, usually held without examination, but also an impossible one to fulfil; and if people go around demanding impossibilities, then what can we expect, other than monstrosities?) Matters can — and often do — work themselves out to their logical conclusions, and that is one way we can attempt to predict their course: by working out their logical entailments. But it is not necessarily the case that they will do so; for, besides all else, they may well work themselves out in accordance with common fallacies, at least for a while. (A pet-theory of mine is that the simple fallacy of the converse plays a not insignificant role in mass-social developments.) A good question to ask of an idea regarding its social development is not just what it entails, but how it might be commonly misunderstood to mean something else.

So, I should add that I certainly do not take the absurdly monocausal-abstract view that liberalism is the only factor at play, or that it should be taken in isolation from the circumstances and from the creatures of which it is a poor and unworthy expression. Thus at play are many and diverse factors in complex relations: pride, greed, hope, honour, love, hatred, true and false beliefs, good and bad intentions, egotism, altruism, racial and ethnic competition and aggression, social rivalries of every kind, affection for home and kin, alienation and disassociation, status-signalling, parochialism, cosmopolitanism, rationality and irrationality, manifold material and mental forces, and so on and so forth — in other words, all the complexities one should expect in relations between such creatures as we are and the circumstances in which we exist. Societies are entities too complex for finite rational minds to encompass in true and exact conception. That is why the so-called “rational” modern ideologies which have some abstract, simplistic, and utilitarian vision of mankind, and which seek to shape societies towards that vision, are greatly impoverishing of the actual societies over which they are dominant. Such is no triumph of rationality, but of presumption, and so too a grand failure to understand the reality of mankind’s condition. It seems to have become a bad habit amongst mankind to come up with ideas for itself which do not apply to itself.

Bruce Charlton said...

If liberalism is a parasite on the host of society, then maybe the evolving nature of liberalism can be seen as related to the growth of the parasite as the host also grows?

Liberalism operates almost entirely as a second order phenomenon - e.g. the first order reality is economic production and growth, but liberalism is concerned with distribution of wealth, not its creation.

Another example: the first order reality is training doctors or lawyers to do a good job; but liberalism sees places at medical and law school, and professional credentials, as goodies to be to be allocated to members of the most deserving or oppressed groups.

These and other parasitic second order liberal phenomena grow on the surplus generated by success in the first order realm.

In the early days of liberalism (early and mid 1800s) there was a very small economic surplus, so the parasite could not grow very large.

But as the host has grown, so has the parasite; and indeed it is usual in biology that parasites evolve faster than their hosts ability to control them; which is why parasites often kill their hosts.

The internet was one of the most profound technological breakthroughs in the history of the world - it should have led to even greater economic growth than something like the railways.

But the economic growth effect of the internet has been all but invisible. What we thought was Western growth was, it turns out, mostly borrowing and inflation. Why?

I suspect that the internet did indeed lead to a massive burst of economic growth, which has been completely used-up the the growth of the parasites on society - mostly by the bureaucracy.

Now the parasite is much bigger than the host. And now liberalism is much bigger than the first order reality on which it feeds.

For a while, science and technological breakthroughs outran the growth of the parasites; but now the weight of bureaucratic regulation and anemia from excess dependency ratios has all but killed science and technological progress.

Hard-nosed careers advice for young people now consists of coded instruction on how to become a parasite and not a primary producer: work for the government, become a manager. Spend your time preventing people from doing their jobs.

Mercurius Aulicus said...

Have you read this at - Liberalism is The Death of Nations by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck

(HT FaceRight)

Deogolwulf said...

Thanks, Mr Mild, fine stuff.

Anonymous said...

Kalb as an authority on the great matters of human culture--oh puleez!

Perhaps you prefer the world view promoted by Limbaugh and Beck who now seem to be the "official" face of what is now called the "conservative" movement in the USA.

And/or the GOP which only has one policy: NO.

Deogolwulf said...

"oh puleez!"

No drag-acts or verbal mincing in the combox, if you don't mind.

I don't understand what the rest of your comment is about.