Saturday, February 18, 2017

A rad trad criticism of liberalism


Some readers might find this interesting. It's a description of the outlook of radical traditionalists within the Catholic Church. There is clearly an overlap with the criticism of liberalism I have made at this site:
The “radical” school rejects the view that Catholicism and liberal democracy are fundamentally compatible. Rather, liberalism cannot be understood to be merely neutral and ultimately tolerant toward (and even potentially benefitting from) Catholicism. Rather, liberalism is premised on a contrary view of human nature (and even a competing theology) to Catholicism. Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

Because of these positions, the “radical” position—while similarly committed to the pro-life, pro-marriage teachings of the Church—is deeply critical of contemporary arrangements of market capitalism, is deeply suspicious of America’s imperial ambitions, and wary of the basic premises of liberal government. It is comfortable with neither party, and holds that the basic political division in America merely represents two iterations of liberalism—the pursuit of individual autonomy in either the social/personal sphere (liberalism) or the economic realm (“conservatism”—better designated as market liberalism).

This is a principled criticism of liberalism, one that reaches down to first principles. I was especially interested in the final observation - that the mainstream parties are usually just "two iterations of liberalism," with the left wing party oriented to "the pursuit of individual autonomy in either the social/personal sphere" and the right wing party being oriented to the pursuit of individual autonomy in the economic realm.

Regular readers will know that I agree with this understanding of mainstream politics (though the emergence of an anti-globalist right is starting to modify the political landscape).

8 comments:

  1. The expression "radical traditionalist" is an oxymoron. Tradition is truth and truth cannot be radical. Radical is a world which describe those who deviate from truth and ultimately reject truth. Traditional Catholicism has always been opposed to democracy, historically favouring the aristocratic hierarchical society headed by the Christian Monarch committed to the service of God and leading society in transparent truth for the common good. This is the manner in which Europe was ruled until the Reformation which divided and weakened Christendom.

    The Church understood the implicit danger of democracy in which the ignorant masses could be manipulated by vested interests into taking actions contrary to their own interest and indeed highly destructive to their own well wing. The USA is the prime e ample. The most radical, individualistic society is now an occupied state, its population held hostage by a hostile elite who are hell bent on pursuit of their own power and world hegemony and the destruction of their own people. This is the result of democracy for such an elite could never achieve power let alone hegemonic control of a monarchic society. However this is not yet the end of the democratic experiment. This will end in totalitarianism and slavery.

    Europe was Christian for over 1200 years. Democracy has destroyed it in just a few hundred years.

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    1. I disagree. If you are living in an era of pure liberalism, and you are asserting something radically different (i.e. traditionalism), then in a meaningful sense you are a radical whether or not you feel comfortable with the term.

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    2. On the contrary, it is the liberals who are radicals. The act of asserting the truth can be a revolutionary in an era of falsehoods and deceptions but it is not radical. The traditions are neither new nor unknown. They are the truths upon which European society was founded, the building blocks and the history of almost 2000 years. They are not contrary to human nature but integral to it.

      The liberal project is radical, alien to human nature and requiring massive social engineering to advance its agenda.

      We don't live in an era of pure liberalism. There are still traditional areas in Europe and traditional communities in Western countries which resist the prevailing culture.. some of the elites also retain traditions as they understand very well that holding on to tradition is how one holds ones power and assets.

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    3. The expression "radical traditionalist" is an oxymoron.

      Technically you're correct. However in the current circumstances the status quo is liberal, atheist and modernist. I think it's reasonable to describe anyone who wants to overturn the status quo as a radical, even if the intention in overturning the status quo is to restore tradition.

      Reactionary might be more accurate than radical, but obviously even these "radical traditionalists" are hesitant about calling themselves reactionaries.

      Which is a pity. Reactionary is a useful term.

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    4. This is the result of democracy for such an elite could never achieve power let alone hegemonic control of a monarchic society

      I agree that democracy has had mostly disastrous consequences but I think the rot in Europe had already started before the democratic experiment really got underway. Most European countries were not democracies in any meaningful sense until the late 19th century (or in many cases later than that).

      The rot goes back to the Enlightenment. The European elites had largely abandoned Christianity by the mid-19th century.

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    5. We don't live in an era of pure liberalism.

      Pure might not have been the best choice of word, but what I meant is that liberalism has become the one standard of morality. If you had gone back to the 1800s in England, it was the core standard, but not the only one. There was a standard of aristocratic honour, and one of gentlemanliness, and one of being a good Christian etc. that still had influence within the culture.

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  2. Actually, I know that Gary Potter made essentially the same comment about the liberalism of the two "sides" in US politics some years ago when he wrote that US "conservatism" is merely the right wing of the national liberalism.

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  3. "that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue."


    Is that to say that liberalism is self-limiting (or perhaps self-sabotaging) in that it induces us to act in an 'unnatural way'? If we were to better conform with the traditional notions of family, community and Church, we as individual would be more powerful and happy?

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