T Nation

Right & Left Liberalism vs Culture


They tend to irresponsibly draw down on the cultural inheritance of the past even as they fail to replenish its stores. And, they tend as well to borrow against the future, unmindful of the children they are increasingly unlikely to bear.


Is that us, or what? Sounds like it to me.

Obviously some will hate it. To me though, it's just a statement of the obvious.


Sounds like the biggest bunch of eloquently-stated bullshit I've ever heard.


Straw man anyone?

Seriously. How does this type of projecting and demonizing pass for rational thought?

Literally 90% or more of the punditry that I read is nothing more than poorly written, dystopian future fiction.


It's not even wrong.


Looks as if I mistakenly edited my op instead of quoting it.


"Diversity," a monoculture of anti-culture. Good stuff!

[i]Liberalism begins by claiming to be neutral among personal ends and choices, indifferent to the ultimate purposes of individuals so long as those purposes do not come into violent conflict. However, one can quickly see that this indifference must eventually become outright hostility toward those choices that involve ultimate purposes, particularly inasmuch as they involve not individually defined ends, but ends that require community and culture for their fruition. So long as such communities and cultures are open and make no authoritative claim on the individuals who belong to them--so long as there are strong opportunities and rights of exit--then such communities can be tolerated by the liberal state. But, this very logic proves destructive of the fundamental status of culture, which requires a kind of preliminary devotion and loyalty in advance of choice.

One sees, then, how a diversity of cultures becomes the liberal form of multiculturalism. Cultural diversity in the truest sense results from internal standards and practices within cultures, and cultures collectively and cohesively provide definition of their beliefs, their practices, their customs, their ways of life. Cultures patrol their borders, defining what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and involves distinctions between members and outsiders. "Multiculturalism," or--to use the updated language--"diversity"--reduces beliefs and ways of life to the level of the individual, demanding then in advance of any belief that every individual first assent and commit to a willingness to tolerate any other belief or way of life, so long as there is no threat of physical harm. What becomes intolerable are people who will not give that preliminary assent, who insist that certain standards or beliefs ought to govern in a particular context or setting. Such people need correction, restriction, or ostracism for their intolerance.

The result is the elimination of actual diversity in the form of groups, institutions, associations, in favor of a kind of uniform monoculture of individualistic diversity. A good example of this is to be found in universities today: universities everywhere constantly invoke the language of "diversity"--by which of course is meant the "diversity" of lifestyle choices based upon individual choice--and seek to eliminate any remnant of actual cultural diversity by which colleges and universities were once differentiated (e.g., different religious, regional, historical traditions..). What remains is a monoculture of completely identical individualists: no matter their individual "lifestyle" choices, they first must maintain a preliminary allegiance to the ideal of multiculturalism--that is, the indifferent toleration based in the logic of individual choice. This is the anti-culture of liberalism.[/i]


That's nice... it's still a pretty pathetic straw man.


Couldn't you just have shortened this whole thing and gotten right to the point by saying that liberals are tolerant of everything but intolerance, and that this is necessarily pradoxical in nature?


A lot of flowery drivel that basically says liberals don't support diversity because every single one of them is a liberal! Heh.


You keep saying it is a straw man - how is it a straw man?


I like it. It certainly is not poorly written. I take the theme to be that two modern schools of Liberalism - both the ideology of "classical" and "modern" - are working too much a strain on the culture that supports the Good Life. And they are.

This article talks about Liberalism's need to liberate people from the chains of their culture - and the pathological intentional ignorance of the costs of that liberation. So much focus on one single ethic - I want what I want right now and I am entitled to that for its own sake - has made modern society into a tribe of sensationists who think nothing of the past and, even more dangerously, nothing of the future.

High divorce rates (a parent has to break up a family to go "find himself"). High debt rates. Galactically awful consumption habits. The death of thrift. The primacy of enjoyment over accomplishment.

We don't consider the importance of inheritance anymore, whether material security or cultural patrimony. Our kids are not our beneficiaries, rather they are our sugar daddies. We waste what was given to us by our previous generation, we get our jollies now and stick our kids with the bill.

In short, the present generation is Paris Hilton, and its children are the Hilton parents. It's obscene, and this article is a nice review of those issues.


No. I saw the need for sharing his view of culture, to start off. How a culture exists and continues to exist, it's importance to orderly society, the inter-generational continuity it provides for, the transmission of beliefs and values (moral/intellectual), etc.

Further, his point about us spending off our inheritance, charging off of debt to our future citizens--less likely to bear, and when born, less likely into an intact family--is spot on if you ask me.

Lastly, his point about the anti-cultural is glaringly obvious. Culture, how we transmit our values, beliefs, and practices HAS to be intolerant to some degree. It has to "police it's borders". If a culture is viewed as if it was one of a number of different hats (as he puts it), which one simply tries on and takes off at will, it ceases to be a culture.

On a sort of related note, I noticed how sociologists have only recently beginning to talk openly again about the culutre--yes, culture--of poverty. What kept them?

On another similar note, a recent study found that not only were black students doing even worse (compared to white students) than previously thought, poverty doesn't seem to explain it away. Indeed, they found that poor white boys did just as well as non-poor black boys in reading and math. See, I don't subscribe to a racial theory about this. No, mine is a cultural criticism.


Sloth and Thunderbolt23: I apologize for the smugness of my last post. I get the gist of this thing and I agree to a point, but I'm not sure that I would say liberalism in a political sense is what has caused this affliction to society.

You two should check out a book I just read called "Why We Hate Us" by Richard Meyer. He gets into this very thing, but it doesn't read nearly as dryly. It's really good, and it's pretty short which is nice because he really pounds home the point and it gets a little repetitive toward the end. The first chapter kind of reads like a rant, but beyond that it's very interesting. You'll like it.


Because he provides no evidence to back up any of these claims:

I pulled them out of their context to highlight them, but when you place them in context, the absurdity of the argument becomes even more profound. The author builds one assumption on another, using each previous assumption as grounds for the next... without ever having substantiated his first claim.

This type of garbage is pretty much the standard in contemporary punditry, and it's sickening.


i do not see liberalism as the main cause of our current cultural disease.

i rather see liberalism as a symptom of a more global deculturative disease.

in this regard, liberalism is not even a political position.
it's a specific ethos. an attempt to rationalize and justify whatever changes are coming in our cultures.
a "lets say it's actually ok" attitude.

remember me of a scene in a french movie. La Haine.
a character is fallen from the roof of a building and he keep repeating "jusqu'ici, tout va bien...jusqu'ici, tout va bien"

"for now, it's alright... for now, it's alright"

that being said, liberalism has no monopoly on denial and shortsightedness.
i would say that a good number of conservatives are actually working hard as hell to conserve some of the most disruptive things in our society.
which is quite absurd.


Or we could start with the first point he made regarding liberalism:

This is the starting point from which he builds his entire argument... an (as far as it is presented) entirely baseless claim about the psychology of an ideology at best. At its worst, it's a claim about the psychology of a large portion of our population.

Either way, he better have some serious fucking research to back this up, or he's just spitting in the wind.


I don't recognise this characterisation of liberalism.


Actually, it's the text of a speech he recently gave. His personal blog can be found here;

Much of it casual blogging, but he also shares essays he's published in various journals. And excerpts from his books, etc. You'll find citations and refernces for these, of course. An example, an essay he wrote while a faculty member at Princeton, published by MIT Press:

As far as being standard contemporary punditry...I think you better read his blog. Nothing at all contemporary about his criticisms of the GoP's fetishization of market liberalism, the Democrat's Social liberalism, or the double barreled liberalism of the Libertarian. This is a guy talking about Aristotle, GK Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Burke, and Cristopher Lasch. Honestly, his isn't the kind of thinking you'll get from a Beck, a Ron Paul, a Limbaugh, an Olbermann, or a Maddow.


Most wouldn't. And, I suspect it's because a specific political party comes to mind when they see "liberalism." Uh-uh, way off.


Pretty much what I think of all of this guys stuff.

But he sure knows how to twiddle a pen...