Thursday, February 2, 2012

Brief Notes: Liberalism


One of the questions batted around here recently has to do with the nature of liberalism. What does the word mean and what does it mean to those who claim it? While we know the classical meaning of the term and we know the contemporary meaning of it, in its post-World War II manifestation as “rights” liberalism, it is becoming less and less clear what it means among those who claim it today.

Classical liberalism, of course, was the political movement derived from the Enlightenment that sought the end of the Old Regime and the creation of a political system grounded in at least some measure of democracy. Thus classical nineteenth-century liberals favored such things as voting for officials of the state, a free press, freedom of religion, and free market capitalism. By this definition George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, and Bebe Rebozo were all “liberals.”

What liberalism has meant since the end of World War II and since the rise of the Civil Rights Movement has been what is sometimes called “rights” liberalism. Because of the Nazis, because of the Holocaust, and because Black people fought like hell, a liberal became someone who believed not only in classical liberalism but in Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, LGBT, Environmentalism, regulatory capitalism and, of course, the Anti-War movement, all under the umbrella of universal human rights.

The notion of universal human rights, in fact, is the very key to western liberalism.

Traditionally, the home of classical American liberalism has been the Republican Party while the home of American contemporary “rights” liberalism has been the Democratic Party and the progressive movement. Part of what we are doing on this blog, sometimes explicitly but usually implicitly, is chewing over the failure of universal human rights within the western progressive movement in favor of the multicultural ideal.

Part of the reason that the progressive-left is turning against the Jewish state of Israel, aside from decades of relentless Arab and Soviet-influenced propaganda demonizing that tiny country, is because in the tension between western multiculturalism and universal human rights, multiculturalism is either winning out or it has won.

Thus, if we criticize the Arab world or the Muslim world for their violation of women's rights or their absolute contempt for gay rights, not to mention the 14 centuries of murderous abuse of the Jews, we are violating the central progressive tenet of multiculturalism and therefore deemed “racist."

And how can such a person possibly be a liberal, eh?



  1. An essential aspect of the situation that Jewish people need to understand:

    The nature of Muslim culture (in essense, Arab culture). Jewish culture and Muslim culture (in essense, Arab culture) are polar opposites of each other. Hence the situation that the nation of the Jewish people is in. The members of one group of people - the Jewish people - blame themselves (actually, each other) for everything - including malicious violent attacks committed against themselves by the members of other groups of people; while the members of the other group of people - Arab people (and Muslims in general) - like the Nazis, and like all other racist totalitarian societies - blame other people, including the victims of Arab people (and the victims of Muslims in general) - for unpleasant feelings experienced by Arab people, and by Muslims in general, including unpleasant results, experienced by Arab people, and by Muslims in general, of malicious violent attacks committed by Arab people, and Muslims in general, against non-Arab people and non-Muslim people.

    Jewish people need to start to be mindful and need to start to stand up for themselves like normal human beings - by telling the truth, and by stopping colluding with a racist genocidal anti-Jewish political movement - the so-called 'Palestinian movement'.

    What a Muslim Learned on Yom Kippur, by Nonie Darwish


    "Yom Kippur encourages Jews to examine themselves, to assume responsibility for their transgressions and for the task of self-improvement. Given my cultural background, this concept is entirely new to me."


    "To admit one’s flaws and mistakes, to correct and repent, challenges a person of any nationality. In Muslim culture, however, it is inconceivable. To acknowledge one's shortcomings before first blaming others would bring deep shame and dishonor not only to the individual but to his or her entire family. Those who admit fault, even unintentional guilt, are regarded as foolish. If the mistake is a cultural taboo, one's reputation may be scarred for life and the perpetrator might end up brutally punished."


    Egyptian MP: America and Israel Are Responsible for Port Said Soccer Bloodbath

  2. If anyone is intetested, I wrote about this same topic here:

    I agree that universal human rights and multiculturalism are often in conflict, and that the far left errs when it chooses multiculturalism, with disastrous results.

  3. It's regrettable that over there where you wrote about it, to raise this matter engenders calls of ODS and worse, with intolerance and censorship that would make any ideologue warm and fuzzy.

    When people call themselves progressive they should act progressive, and they should not walk in fear that some will, for political purposes, seek to label so as to silence the truth.

    The truth is that universal human rights and cultural relativity are in conflict, as best seen in the disconnect between the UDHR and Cairo Declaration. Proponents of multiculturalism too often see their own culture in the worst light and practice benign racism that excuses individuals, as if the latter are incapable of agency, except as a consequence of what was done to them. 

  4. Hey fizziks,

    I'm just glad that you wrote about it because for awhile I thought I was entirely alone in noticing this central tension within contemporary liberalism.

    I cannot tell you odd it felt to apprehend something so huge and yet so uncommented upon.

    The fact is, of course, that the tension between universal human rights and the multicultural ideal is the central philosophical-political dilemma in the west today, yet nobody talks about it.

  5. Supposedly Bernard-Henri Levy has written about it.  I actually read some of his book Left In Dark Times, but it was so full of name dropping and personal anecdotes that I didn't get too much out of it.  Perhaps I'll give it another try.

    Anyway, this idea is definitely out there.

  6.  There are several people who deal with the subject, but it's often from the perspective of political philosophy that looks at universality and cultural relativity.

  7. Oh, for God's Sake, will you kindly write on this?

    800 to 1000 words.

    Publish it at your place, but cross-post here.



    Take your time, but we are on to something that is important, but not discussed.

  8. It's all about moral relativism. Progressives are full of it; Liberals are not to any great extent.

  9. Will try soon. I was away for some family stuff and have other things going on.

    You remember when I mentioned this stuff awhile ago as the most important issue? It is where Obama has dropped the ball more than anywhere else.

    The progressives, even the Jewish ones, wet their pants when the matter is raised, but it's liberalism at its best, since it speaks to universal human rights and truthfully exposes those that abuse or otherwise enable it.

    Again, our progressive friends quake in fear to be called bigots by those who practice bigotry. What better way to hide one's bigotry than pointing fingers at others. People learned this game at the UN and perfected it at Durban.

    I'll try to say more about this, but it's complicated both to understand and communicate.

  10. Moral relativism.

    Like, say, comparing Likud to Hamas?

    One would have to be a moral moron to make such a comparison.

    Yet they do.

    It's astonishing, really.