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Liberalism - Aurelien

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Some important thinking by Aurelien on Western Liberalism.

As I’ve pointed out frequently before, it’s a peculiarity of Liberalism that to has no real basis for its beliefs other than assertion: no divine revelation, no hallowed traditions, no systematic body of theory claiming to be based in the real world. For this reason, Liberalism’s dominant figures have always felt ideologically insecure and uneasy, especially when confronted with systems of thought that are anchored in something other than simple assertion. Liberalism has always had a problem with Islam, for example, whose intellectual basis is firmly in revelation and whose popular base is in societies that do not share Liberal views. Revealingly, Liberalism has never been able to domesticate and absorb it as it has done with Christianity, and even Buddhism…

Liberalism, with its firmly-held but poorly-grounded ideology, is incapable of living peacefully in the same world as the kind of political and social systems we find in China, Russia and India today. This is an inherent problem with any universalist ideology, as I have described before, and reflects the fact that Liberalism is now the nearest thing that western elites have to a religion, and that it acts as a force for precarious unity, or at least uneasy co-existence, for most of them. The longer the West tolerates the existence of rival systems of thought, however, the more people will start to question Liberalism’s universalist pretensions…

During the Cold War, ideological competition between the two blocs was based largely on economic and social performance, as each system claimed to be more successful than the other in material betterment of peoples’ lives. That is no longer the case: Liberalism is by definition universally true and valid, and does not need to prove itself or compare itself with anything. Those societies that have not (yet) embraced Liberalism should therefore be persuaded or compelled to do so. To the extent that they refuse to do so, they are seen as objective enemies. Unlike in the Cold War, peaceful co-existence is not actually possible, nor is it desirable. Similarly, people and factions in other countries who embrace Liberalism are on the side of history, and are to be automatically supported. If they do not win elections that’s a shame, but it’s the fault of the electorate for not being enlightened enough. Eventually, they will come round.

The problem arises when Liberalism encounters a force as large, or larger, than itself, and which refuses to follow its lead, and even refuses to be cowed. Much of the world, of course, has been engaged in passive resistance to Liberalism for some time now, although we seldom notice it. Most nations outside the West are generally concerned to retain at least elements of their traditions, history, culture and society, and not to follow the Liberal West into an individualism red in tooth and claw. But larger and more important countries, like China, India and Russia, have in recent years become tired of simply coping with the West and its Liberal ideology: the have started to actively resist.

Now none of these countries, so far as I can see, shares the kind of universalist assumptions that characterise Liberalism. The Chinese seek to spread their influence and the culture, but to my knowledge they aren’t trying to convert the world to Confucianism, any more than the Indians are trying to convert it to Hinduism. Indeed, when these countries talk about a more balanced and plural world system, they are really talking about a kind of ideological peaceful co-existence, that means that nations do not try to impose their norms and practices on each other. But as I have suggested, Liberalism is incapable of peacefully accepting the presence of other ideologies for very long.

It is this, more than anything else, that explains the unremitting enmity to Russia and China that has typified the last 15-20 years. There is, of course, no objective reason for this enmity: the West can live quite happily with these two countries (and India) if it wants to, for the advantage of all. China may be an economic competitor to the US in some ways, but it is also an important supplier and an important customer. No rational human being believes that a war over Taiwan makes the remotest sense, or is even likely. But war… is understandable (I hesitate to say “rational”) on the basis that the West simply cannot live indefinitely with the presence of other systems of thought that put its universalising ideology in jeopardy.

Yet of course the West cannot expect to win a war against either Russia or China singly, let alone together. This creates a highly unstable situation, where western leaders are obliged to use bellicose rhetoric and make threats and escalate tensions, in the hope that somehow these will have the desired political effect. The problem is that the Russians and Chinese are not intimidated, even though western leaders have led their publics to suppose that the West is so fearsome and powerful that it can always get what it wants. Quite how western leaders can escape from that unstable paradox is not clear…

How Liberalism will react once it realises that what it thought was an irresistible force has slammed into a genuinely immovable obstacle is hard to say, but it won’t be pretty, and will probably resemble a mass political nervous breakdown of some kind.


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