Anatomy Of Antiliberalism / Edition 1

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Overview

Liberal: spoken in a certain tone, heard more and more often lately, it summons up permissiveness, materialism, rootlessness, skepticism, relativism run rampant. How has liberalism, the grand democratic ideal, come to be a dirty word? This hook shows us what antiliberalism means in the modern world--where it comes from, whom it serves, and why it speaks with such a forceful, if everchanging, voice.

In the past, in a battle pitting one offspring of eighteenth-century rationalism against another, Marxism has been liberalism's best known and most vociferous opponent. But with the fall of communism, the voices of ethnic particularism, communitarianism, and religious fundamentalism--a tradition Holmes traces to Joseph de Maistre--have become louder in rejection of the Enlightenment, failing to distinguish between the descendants of Karl Marx and Adam Smith. Stephen Holmes uses the tools of the political theorist and the intellectual historian to expose the philosophical underpinnings of antiliberalism in its nonmarxist guise. Examining the works of some of liberalism's severest critics--including Maistre, Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and Alasdair Maclntyre--Holmes provides, in effect, a reader's guide to antiliberal culture, in all its colorful and often seductive, however nefarious, variety. As much a mindset as a theory, as much a sensibility as an argument, antiliberalism appears here in its diverse efforts to pit "spiritual truths" and "communal bonds" against a perceived cultural decay and moral disintegration. This corrosion of the social fabric--rather than the separation of powers, competitive elections, a free press, religious tolerance, public budgets, and judicial controls on the police--is what the antiliberal forces see as the core of liberal politics. Against this picture, Holmes outlines the classical liberal arguments most often misrepresented by the enemies of liberalism and most essential to the future of democracy.

Constructive as well as critical, this book helps us see what liberalism is and must be, and why it must and always will engender deep misgivings along with passionate commitment.

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Editorial Reviews

New Republic

Holmes is a brilliant polemicist and a sparkling writer...The chapters [he] devotes to dead and hard opponents of liberalism are only a warm-up for his zestfully nasty attacks on soft and living opponents of liberalism...Surely the ideas being discussed here should get people angry and are worth fighting about.
— Alan Wolfe

The Atlantic

Holmes' purpose is both to define the antiliberal traditon and to defend liberalism against it. The result is a book that sheds a good deal of light on the idea of liberty, mainly through the author's vigorous and well-informed polemic...The book is rich in insights and ideas, all of which contribute to the overwhelming impression the reader is likely to derive from the book: that liberalism is not weak and one-sided but rather takes into account...a wide range of fundamental human needs and desires. The liberalism sketched by Holmes is not easily relativized in either radical or conservative terms.
— Glenn Tinder

American Historical Review

This book is an act of political engagement, a defense in clear and bracing language of liberal ideas...This book is [Holmes's] contribution to the present debate on an important question in American cultural life: whether liberal individualism in the United States has undermined moral commitment to community and the common good.
— Gilbert Allardyce

Economist
Holmes challenges the philosophical arguments of the high communitarians...and their intellectual forebears. By the time he is finished, the opposing camp has no survivors, ancient or modern. Anybody who feels drawn to the high communitarian cause owes it to himself (though not to society) to read Mr. Holmes's book; everybody else should read it for pleasure.
New Republic - Alan Wolfe
Holmes is a brilliant polemicist and a sparkling writer...The chapters [he] devotes to dead and hard opponents of liberalism are only a warm-up for his zestfully nasty attacks on soft and living opponents of liberalism...Surely the ideas being discussed here should get people angry and are worth fighting about.
The Atlantic - Glenn Tinder
Holmes' purpose is both to define the antiliberal traditon and to defend liberalism against it. The result is a book that sheds a good deal of light on the idea of liberty, mainly through the author's vigorous and well-informed polemic...The book is rich in insights and ideas, all of which contribute to the overwhelming impression the reader is likely to derive from the book: that liberalism is not weak and one-sided but rather takes into account...a wide range of fundamental human needs and desires. The liberalism sketched by Holmes is not easily relativized in either radical or conservative terms.
American Historical Review - Gilbert Allardyce
This book is an act of political engagement, a defense in clear and bracing language of liberal ideas...This book is [Holmes's] contribution to the present debate on an important question in American cultural life: whether liberal individualism in the United States has undermined moral commitment to community and the common good.
Library Journal
The debate between liberals and communitarians continues unabated. While liberals stress the value of individual autonomy and rights, communitarians emphasize the bonds of family, neighborhood, and community. The liberal perspective has been strengthened by the publication of this new book. Taking aim at such figures as Leo Strauss, Christopher Lasch, and Catholic philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, political scientist Holmes traces the derivation of their theories in the antimodern writings of Joseph de Maistre and Carl Schmitt. He shows that the ``nonmarxist antiliberalism'' of de Maistre and Schmitt are uncomfortably close to fascist doctrines. While acknowledging that today's antiliberals would reject the more extremist views of their historical brethren, Holmes insists that their ``soft'' rhetoric offers encouragement to revanchist critics of liberal-democratic capitalism. This well-organized and thoughtful text, marred only somewhat by the author's earnest but underdeveloped defense of the free market, is recommended for specialists.-- Kent Worcester, Social Science Research Council, New York
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674031852
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1993
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 0.78 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Holmes is Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law at New York University School of Law.
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Table of Contents

Preface

Introduction: What is Antiliberalism?

Part I. The Antiliberals

Maistre and the Antiliberal Tradition

Schmitt: The Debility of Liberalism

Strauss: Truths for Philosophers Alone

Maclntyre: The Antiliberal Catechism

Anti-Prometheanism: The Case of Christopher Lasch

Unger: Antiliberalism Unbound

The Community Trap

Part II. Misunderstanding the Liberal Past

Antiliberals as Historians of Liberal Thought

The "Atomization" of Society?

Indifference toward the Common Good?

The Eclipse of Authority?

The Public Realm Sacrificed to the Private?

EconomicMan?

The Selfishness of Rights?

Moral Skepticism?

The Crimes of Reason?

Antonym Substitution

Conclusion

Notes

Index

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