The Future of Liberalism

A great article on postliberalism by Sohrab Ahmari.

Ahmari reproaches Dreher for not being done with liberalism already and moving on. Liberalism – a worldview that places human liberty above everything else – is doomed to become illiberal, coercive. We’ve discussed this on the blog when we talked about Patrick Deneen’s work.

For those who missed it, here’s an example. Say, you want to live as 15 different genders. In order to do that, you need me to refer to you as corresponds to each gender whenever you feel like it. Moreover, you need me to believe that you are, indeed, 15 different genders. But I don’t want to do it. In fact, I can’t. Your freedom to be what you want is in conflict with my freedom to think what I do. Eventually, you’ll need a moral order to rank whose freedom is more deserving. And a political order to coerce one of us into relinquishing their freedom.

Or, say, you want to be free from fear of COVID. And to achieve that, you need me to modify my behavior. But I don’t care about your freedom from COVID. Whose desire is going to win? Again, a moral and political order will come into existence to rank our freedoms as more or less important and coerce one of us.

Ahmari is right when he says that liberalism is as coercive as any other worldview. Why not just ditch it altogether, he asks, and accept a way of being which is also going to be coercive but at least won’t be as sterile and misery-inducing as liberalism? He’s impatient with Dreher who can’t renounce liberalism and move on.

The problem is that within liberalism you still get a chance to negotiate whose freedom is more deserving of protection. Everybody still gets a chance to win. In the alternative order that he seems to propose, some people will always lose. It will be a lot more static and less protean than liberalism. That’s not an easy thing to accept, especially when nobody says clearly who the non-negotiable losers will be.

5 thoughts on “The Future of Liberalism

  1. “The problem is that within liberalism you still get a chance to negotiate whose freedom is more deserving of protection. Everybody still gets a chance to win. In the alternative order that he seems to propose, some people will always lose. It will be a lot more static and less protean than liberalism. That’s not an easy thing to accept, especially when nobody says clearly who the non-negotiable losers will be.”

    Isn’t that part of the logic that got us into liberalism to begin with, as the conventional narrative goes? People were so tired of the European wars of religion and illberal winners imposing their beliefs and ideology on the losers, only to violently be undone when the losers became the winners again and back and forth.

    Liberalism as protecting at least some parts of people’s beliefs as private and personal, not to be imposed on others even at the price of the winners not getting their way, could act as a compromise for being treated with the same decency in situations where the current winners may find the tables turned.

    Since the winners won’t always be winners in every regard they want, or the majority beliefs won’t always be aligned with your own beliefs, the idea goes even if they currently are, it’s better to have at least some basic protections for everyone that we can agree on, regardless if you end up on the popular or unpopular side of public opinion. Doesn’t stop people from occasionally thinking they’re powerful enough or have a strong enough coalition or have unstoppable populist support so to take a chance otherwise though..

    Like

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