Is there a future for liberalism?

It is often said that liberalism triumphed after the Cold War. But in an age when freedom, tolerance and autonomy are under constant threat, whether it be from paternalistic nudgers or illiberal Twittermobs, is freedom really thriving today? Watch Frank Furedi discuss the future of liberalism at the Battle of Ideas festival 2015.

  • Waffle

    Fantastic panel discussion. Listened to whole thing. Could not help but consider the whole “trigger warning” thing. Back in my 1970 Humanities class, the very first lecture consisted of a screening of Resnais’ ‘Night and Fog’. There was no trigger warning. It was a gut-wrenching shocker. About half the class walked out (and never came back) about half way through. I felt then, and feel even more strongly now — what the hell is the point of university if one is not prepared to be confronted with and deal with uncomfortable truths? BTW, if you have never seen this film, you should be aware that there is absolutely no graphic violence. One only hears the narrators’ voice as the camera silently moves over the remains of the death camp — it is a silent, but unforgettable scream, much like Munch’s iconic painting.

    The other thing that struck me about the discussion was the rather painful attempt to define liberalism. Defining any term today is difficult and in many cases impossible, basically due to the fact that the western world has abandoned the whole concept of standards, which I suppose are now considered “imperial” and “colonizing”.

    • ntt1

      a strong example of this loss or at least bending of standards is the western feminists giving themselves a moral pat on the back for AVOIDING condemnation of other cultures outrageous treatment of women. It is considered virtuous to ignore sexual slavery and overt theocratic oppression.

  • Clausewitz

    Classical liberalism is dead. It’s been replaced by pseudo Marxist Liberals.

  • Chatillon

    While it’s nice to hear academics admit that liberalism is not a universally accepted concept and is not for export, the discussion id happening at a time well past the point where honest discussion may have staved off major problems. Europe is presently being invaded by decidedly illiberal populations. These illiberal populations are being permitted access to Europe by fiat of bureaucrats who are (what was the term used? — “Proceduraly liberal” was it?), who appear not to stand for classic concepts of liberalism at all. That’s what I call ironic.

    Another thing. If classical liberalism is a fruit of the Enlightenment, I would have enjoyed some discussion of this with respect to another fruit of the Enlightenment: the reductionist view of reality leading to materialism. To what degree are liberalism and materialism bound to one another? If the rights of the individual, as pronounced by classical liberalism, are merely the rights of clay made accidentally animate as espoused by materialism, then what’s the point? It is hardly surprising that the outcome of unconstrained materialistic emphasis on the individual leads to expanding demands that individual peculiarities be accommodated. To a liberal in this state of mind, there is no material difference between accepting Kaitlyn Jenner and sharia law. That`s also ironic, I say.

    Liberalism of this kind will never defeat predatory ideologies like Islam because it lacks the common sense to do in the first place and precisely because it is a child of the enlightenment in the second place. The Enlightenment defined itself in large part in terms of what it was not: It was NOT the Church.The Church was from the Enlightenment point of view all that was problematic with society, as were the royal families that were long linked to the Church. Yet the same intellectuals contributing to the Enlightenment were often the product of education in rhetoric, logic and philosophy as provided by the Church (M. Voltaire: we`re looking at you). Yet another irony.

    The Enlightenment failed, and liberalism failed with it, not because it raised up the scientific method but because it did at the implicit undercutting of faith. Western culture, which was once Judeo-Christian, will not be saved by intellects no matter how brilliant and witty their salon performances may be. Such performances are abstractions but it is the everyday reason to live driving each and every soul that really determines the reaction of those souls to threats from without. And it is on that count that the West in now found lacking.