Eric Kaufmann: What Francis Fukuyama Gets Wrong About Liberalism

Good article from Eric Kaufmann:


“In an insightful piece over at Foreign Affairs entitled ‘Liberalism Needs the Nation’, Francis Fukuyama argues that abstract universalist liberalism is too thin to compete with the Right-wing nationalism of a Le Pen, Trump or Putin, but that an inclusive, state-led form of nationhood can keep the populist wolf from the door. This is a point he made some weeks earlier in an interview with UnHerd, and as a political liberal, I share Fukuyama’s concern at the apparent erosion of procedural liberalism. I agree with him that liberal democracy can generally only operate at the nation-state level.

Yet Fukuyama’s account fails to peer beneath the hood of nationalism to acknowledge the importance of an often assimilative majority ethnicity in underpinning stable national identities. He also overlooks the post-1960s Left-modernist capture of national identity in the West, and its attendant corruption of liberalism. …

Over time, the Left-modernist ethos has grown increasingly strident in elite western circles. Progressive illiberalism began with affirmative action in the 70s, cooked up political correctness and speech codes in the 90s, and metastasised into cancel culture and anti-whiteness in the 2010s.

Fukuyama is right that liberalism is under pressure. But he fails to appreciate that Left-modernism has corrupted liberalism, hijacked the national identity of western countries and undermined the ethnic majorities which lend stability to the national identities he values.”

When I write about the “liberals,” I am mentally distinguishing in my head between Liberalism 1.0, Liberalism 2.0 and Liberalism 3.0 which have some key differences.

Liberalism 1.0 or 19th century liberalism was mostly concerned with establishing basic natural rights (life, liberty, property) and crusading for free-market economics. Victorian-era liberalism seems bizarre to us due to the absence of the culture war. It was compatible with piety, separate spheres for the sexes, strong gender roles, race realism and aggressive nationalism. As hard as it is to believe in our times, Americans on the eve of World War I shared a common national identity and a common definition of morality.

Liberalism 2.0 or 20th century progressive liberalism was born in the years around World War I. It rejected laissez-faire economics in favor of state intervention in the economy to break monopolies and promote wealth redistribution and other public goods like public education or public health. It rejected Victorian views of culture, sex and race in favor of cultural relativism, women’s suffrage, feminism and antiracism. It rejected nationalism in favor of globalism and cosmopolitanism in between World War I and World War II. Most importantly, 20th century liberalism embraced modernism which is 1.) elitist and 2.) romanticizes self expression and the inner world of the individual which puts it at war with all types of inherited, ascriptive forms of identity. This is the source of the culture war which began with Sinclair Lewis’ 1922 novel Babbitt and which has continued to widen the rift in American culture down to the present day.

Liberalism 3.0 is 21st century liberalism or woke progressivism. It has also been called the “successor ideology.” The hallmark of woke progressivism is its complete abandonment of traditional liberal values in favor of postmodernism with its obsession with group narratives and power struggles. It rejects pluralism, science, tolerance, equality, constitutionalism, civil liberties and so on. It replaces equality with equity. It damns the Constitution as a disguise for systematic racism. It embraces the “trans” doctrine which is that a man become a woman or a woman can become a man as the mood strikes and demands total conformity and obedience to this dogma. It rejects the traditional liberal position of rejecting any notion of The Good in favor of the “moral clarity” of Twitter. It is deeply authoritarian and intolerant of dissent.

By the time you get to Liberalism 3.0, you find yourself in a world where the “liberals” are opposed to free speech. The ACLU no longer cares about civil liberties, but supports woke causes. The “liberals” are comfortable imposing their values on others and support righteous mob violence. The “liberals” support censorship. The “liberals” support the surveillance state. The “liberals” trust the state completely and advocate disarming the public and submission to a Guardian caste of “experts” who can identify the truth from “misinformation.” There are good races and bad races. Racial discrimination is social justice. Skepticism of corporate power and monopolies has given way to appealing to CEOs to “do something,” reporting people to the censorship department and celebrating deplatforming. Mobs of liberals go around toppling statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Liberalism has become so completely corrupted by modernism, postmodernism, antiracism, cosmopolitanism, feminism, gender theory and critical theory that its current iteration would have been unrecognizable to its founders.

Among other things, Liberalism 3.0 is explicitly anti-White, anti-Southern, anti-Christian and anti-male. It is anti-nationalist and anti-populist. It seeks to cleanse American history of various evil doers. It has no respect for property rights. It wants to restrict my liberties. It wants to aggrandize power to itself at the expense of the Constitution. It has its own revolutionary calendar full of fake holidays like the Jacobins.

About Hunter Wallace 12366 Articles
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  1. “””””….Liberalism 1.0 or 19th century liberalism was mostly concerned with establishing basic natural rights (life, liberty, property) and crusading for free-market economics. ….. “”””

    Before revolution, Lenin with his buddies wanted same things. Communists always want only good things. But when they get power, things change. One of the major goal of Lenin was abolishing death penalty. This issue was extremely popular. Probably everybody knows what happened after 1917.

  2. Liberalism 1.0 leads to liberalism 3.0. It is the same logic of liberal capitalism under the hood, just developed to a higher level of civilizational complexity.

  3. “19th century liberalism was mostly concerned with establishing basic natural rights”:

    It established the new rights only for the new middle class, which allied with the upper class or elites against the multitudes of workers (proletariat) who they exploited brutally at home and abroad. The system has not changed fundamentally since.

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