The Anatomy of Antiliberalism

The Anatomy of Antiliberalism

by Stephen Holmes
     
 

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

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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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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674031807
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
09/28/1993
Pages:
352
Product dimensions:
6.48(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.09(d)

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Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: What is Antiliberalism?1
Pt. IThe Antiliberals
1Maistre and the Antiliberal Tradition13
2Schmitt: The Debility of Liberalism37
3Strauss: Truths for Philosophers Alone61
4MacIntyre: The Antiliberal Catechism88
5Anti-Prometheanism: The Case of Christopher Lasch122
6Unger: Antiliberalism Unbound141
7The Community Trap176
Pt. IIMisunderstanding the Liberal Past
8Antiliberals as Historians of Liberal Thought187
9The "Atomization" of Society?190
10Indifference toward the Common Good?198
11The Eclipse of Authority?201
12The Public Realm Sacrificed to the Private?206
13Economic Man?211
14The Selfishness of Rights?224
15Moral Skepticism?232
16The Crimes of Reason?247
17Antonym Substitution253
Conclusion257
Notes267
Index317

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