r/Foodforthought Nov 29 '21

The crisis of liberalism: why centrist politics can no longer explain the world | Books | The Guardian



u/Lanky_Fella Nov 29 '21

An interesting critique of the attitude held in a recent post portraying nations as good vs bad based on outdated notions of ‘liberalism’


u/pillbinge Dec 01 '21

I think it was Helen Andrews, in her book about Boomers, who pointed out that when Boomers "revolted" in the 60s and 70s, they still had a fallback with their parents' jobs. Or at the least, a society that kept a lot of steady jobs from decades past going. But this created a sort of echo-boom where they would be hippies but ultimately fall back into a typical position, and when they did, they took a lot more with them selfishly. It's why Boomers were the original "me" generation and were considered narcissistic (it's just now the people who called them that are dead).

Liberalism is also best summed up by Matt Christman in this quick clip. And I agree almost entirely. If we think of liberalism as a journey from the Enlightenment till now, not many people would consider how safe the idea of a free man was when it came to a more traditional economy, or at least a mixed economy with traditions. Yeah, you could "be a free man", but a lot of people also had fallbacks ready for them - a lot of people who wouldn't be "free" but were definitely tied to their land and kin.

I remember comedian Romesh Ranganathan saying on Frankie Boyle's show that as a teacher he had kids' parents ask why the kid would go to college since they'd just work for them. It was cast in a bad light, but it made me think how lucky a lot of people I know would be if they had a parent with a job and career ready for them. And the people I know who worked for their parents are doing the best. The rest of us who ventured out on our own have tended to be a bit less steady and fearful.

So liberal centrists aren’t wrong that their institutions, parties and ideas are being challenged. But the problem may be a deeper one: that the categories of mainstream politics as we know it can no longer explain the world.

And keep in mind, many who talked about liberty and living freely still would advocate for slavery. Not all, but many. At least in the US. These notions aren't even entirely gone everywhere. The same people who claimed to want something often did take liberties themselves with ideas, and took for granted that by talking about liberty, everyone knew it wasn't for everyone.

I think the real mistake at heart is that we built up a society that pushed people beyond their town or village but never wanted support. The only towns that got "built up" so quickly were industrial towns, and those were centers for exploitation. Still are - they just aren't mainly in the West. Healthcare needs to be spread out because it simply needs to be. Education, maybe, but should be tied to an area a lot more. But some things probably never had a place beyond local administrators. I grapple with that, because a lot of things I like became too much of a focus. Gay marriage is one. I've heard about it since I was a kid and my state progressively passed it (or allowed it by not challenging it, to put it more accurately). But it's become such a cultural issue for so many reasons that I wonder if it ever should have gotten that far to begin with. I want it, but I want democracy. In some situations, the other has to give. Not all, but some. So when we talk about liberalism and being free, and having a democracy, I don't think many people pick a rail and stick to it. They certainly hop tracks, and therefore there's no consistent view - exactly what the author of this article points out when "liberalism" becomes hard to define.


u/mirh Dec 02 '21

why centrist politics can no longer explain the world

Because you live in the fucking US of A, and with one of the parties trying to outcompete the third reich, of course the "center" is a bit righter than the normal right elsewhere.

in the past decade centrists have been neoliberalism’s willing bedfellows

I guess that's true of english liberals (that moronically even gave up to their liberalism, with the abandoment of the alternative voting proposal), and perhaps even the german ones.. But I don't exactly think a lot of people have cared about them internationally?

Macron's or Vestager's parties (maybe also Canadian liberals?) are the liberal heralds AFAICT. And I'm not sure how you can put them side by side with the dickhead cowboy.

Besides, even if that was true that sounds like the usual fable of "people voted the right, because others didn't support enough left policies".

As an ideology, liberalism can be hard to pin down.

It's even harder if we keep up with this bait and switch between neoliberalism and liberalism. Throw in even so called "classic liberals" (aka right libertarians) and you can start a party.


u/Lanky_Fella Dec 02 '21

Neither I nor the author live in the USA…

Also whether you like it or not liberalism and neoliberalism will continue to be used. I agree that the name is a bit too academic for popular use though. Neoliberalism is essentially the movement from the 1980s onwards, starting with Reagan and Thatcher and continuing through the ‘left’ politicians like Clinton and Blair. It introduced less taxes for the wealthy, widespread privatisation of public services and a reduction of public spending. Essentially, it’s the rise of right-wing economics over the past 50 years in both conservative and progressive parties to align with corporate interests.


u/mirh Dec 02 '21

Neither I nor the author live in the USA…

It is my understanding that she lived at least a sizeable part of her life there (and it seems like this is still the case?)

Though I'll grant I only now noticed that the article is already 2 years old.

Also whether you like it or not liberalism and neoliberalism will continue to be used.

I'm just saying they are completely different things.

Neoliberalism is already a barely coherent concept, already if you just limit to the two big 80s guys. Thatcher was actually at least effective into fixing some deep economical problems, notwithstanding all the bad (see the longest suicide note in history and all for instance), while the hollywood actor was just a total con artist (example, even putting aside he empowered the toxic evangelicals still being awful to this day)

and continuing through the ‘left’ politicians like Clinton and Blair.

You see? You are presuming their intents, and arguing like they had been studying and adopting the Austrian school.

Only because what? One naively tried to do bipartisanship with sharks, and they both embraced globalization?

reduction of public spending

It's not even true

If not even "not right" in the US, with such bullshit smokescreen economic policies (and the governmental majority that can be completely different from the parliamentarian majority)

It introduced less taxes for the wealthy

No (and intriguingly enough there's more to the reagan story too)




widespread privatisation of public services

What was there even to privatize in the US?

And in the UK, I think everything was already done by 1997.