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Category: Liberalism

Reevaluating the Culture Wars

In America, “culture war” is a term of surprisingly recent origin. It dates from the early 1990s, and the conflict it signified was declared over almost as soon as it was named. “In his convention speech, Pat Buchanan referred to the ‘culture wars,’” Irving Kristol wrote in 1992, “I regret to inform him that those wars are over, and the Left has won.”…

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Capitalism’s Character Types

Writing in the Atlantic, in an article titled “How Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration” (July/August 2017), Peter Beinart asks why Democrats moved from evenhandedness on the issue of immigration to a fervent belief in open borders. Why did they move from support for patriotism to contempt for the nation-state? Why do they refuse to…

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From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump—and Beyond

Whoever speaks of “crisis” today risks being dismissed as a bloviator, given the term’s banalization through endless loose talk. But there is a precise sense in which we do face a crisis today. If we characterize it precisely and identify its distinctive dynamics, we can better determine what is needed to resolve it. On that…

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China, America, and “Nationalism”

“Fire and fury” were expected at the annual CLSA conference in Hong Kong in September. Stephen Bannon was to deliver a frontal assault on China—on Chinese soil—and advance the proposition that the United States and China are, or should be, engaged in an epic struggle for world domination in the twenty-first century, according to the…

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Toward an All-American Affairs

We need to find a way forward together. By we I mean Americans, all Americans in our splendid and difficult diversity. We need new ideas, including the kinds of ideas that are being put forward on these pages. But we are no longer in the eighteenth century, when a small group of propertied white men can provide the ideas, doctrines, and laws to guide the nation…

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The Conservation of Coercion

It was the anarchists who first told me about the Kapauku Papuans. Among the Kapauku, in West New Guinea, there was no state administration of justice; instead, both civil disputes and grave crimes were adjudicated by a caste of private citizens called tonowi. As tonowi travelled the highlands, collecting evidence, pronouncing judgement, and suggesting sentences, their reputations would spread. The wisest and most impartial tonowi were in high demand, and could command a correspondingly high price from a village for their assistance in settling a dispute. A tonowi who developed a reputation for corruption or partiality, however, would soon need to find a new line of work. Past judgements of great tonowi in difficult cases formed an evolving body of common law that helped inform new cases…

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Make the Left Great Again

The West is currently in the midst of an antiestablishment revolt of historic proportions. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom, the election of Donald Trump in the United States, the rejection of Matteo Renzi’s neoliberal constitutional reform in Italy, the European Union’s unprecedented crisis of legitimation—although these interrelated phenomena differ in ideology and goals,…

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Negative Piety

The motif of the postwar era is found in the name itself—post. The 1950s sought to be post-ideological. The 1960s launched post-bourgeois culture, one that sets aside nettlesome constraints. Intellectuals throughout the West adopted postmodernism, an outlook that eases the demands of truth. Before 1989, progressives in the West were already post-Marxist. That meant shifting away from Marx’s rigorous dialectics toward open-ended campaigns for “liberation” that pose no threats to capitalism.

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