Why today’s political ideologies are pretty much the same

James Kalb has published an article that explains (1) why Democrats and Republicans (also Libertarians, Anarchists, and Populists) are ultimately so similar; (2) why social conservatives, such as Christians and other traditionalists, have such a difficulty in being heard in the public square; (3) the underlying worldview that dominates contemporary Western societies; and (4) why this worldview is failing and how social conservatism might stage a comeback.

The article, published in Modern Age and online at Intercollegiate Review, is kind of long, so I urge you to read it here:  Out of the Antiworld | Intercollegiate Review.  After the jump, I will post excerpts to whet your appetite.

Thanks to Anthony Sacramone for alerting me this piece, which is from the publication that he is now editing.  Read it all at here, as you will need the connections between these passages:

For all the talk of diversity, today’s politics are extraordinarily uniform. The West lives under a single political regime, managerial liberalism, that combines an emphasis on individual choice and democratic values with domination of social life by experts, functionaries, and commercial interests. The liberal and managerial aspects of the system seem at odds with each other, but both are basic, and together they have led to the suppression of many things that have always been fundamental to human society—religion, cultural particularity, even the distinction between the sexes.

Unusual though the resulting form of society may be, people take it for granted, so much so that anything else seems impossible. No one can imagine a future, apart from chaos and tyranny, that is anything but more of the same; and those who want to roll back recent developments, to the ’50s, for example, are considered out of touch or psychologically disordered. If you are skeptical about democracy, diversity, and choice, or if you do not trust the experts, there is something wrong with you. And if you think there is an authority that could call the regime into question, and even at times override it, you are a fanatical extremist. . . .

Our current public order claims to separate politics from religion, but that understates its ambition. It aspires to free public life—and eventually, since man is social, human life in general—not only from religion but also from nature and history. The intended result is an increase in freedom as man becomes his own creator. The effect, though, is that human life becomes what those in power say it is. Western political authorities now claim the right to remake the most basic arrangements. If you want to know the nature of man and the significance of life and death, you look to the political order and its authorized interpreters. That is the meaning of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions and the transformation of abortion into a human right. Man has, in effect, become God, and politics is the authoritative expression of his mind, spirit, and will. . . .

So within the present political order there are two main parties: right liberals, who are called conservatives and like the competitive free market and a venturesome foreign policy, and left liberals, who are called liberals or progressives and like international law and the politically correct redistributionist welfare state. Political debate mostly has to do with the struggle between those two parties. The first favors actors and doers; the second, experts and officials. With that in mind, the first party often gets its way in practice, while the second is stronger in the world of thought and discussion.

The struggle between the parties is real, because it is based on opposing interests and points of view regarding our current society, but it is also limited. The two parties are largely composed of the same kind of people, ambitious professionals who attended the same schools and identify with their peers and superiors rather than the people generally. Left liberals claim to be disinterested egalitarians, but they are as much concerned as others with making their way in the world. Right liberals talk about economic freedom, but like their leftist colleagues they are mostly managers and experts who are happiest with a controlled overall system. From the standpoint of ultimate standards, the two parties differ only in emphasis. Both accept equality and preference satisfaction as ultimate standards, but left-liberals emphasize equal outcomes and security, while right-liberals prefer equal opportunity and efficiency.

The result is that the two are not far apart on policy. Left-liberals accept the market; right-liberals accept extensive government intervention in economic and social life. Both favor globalization and the maintenance of the liberal system. Hence today’s political stagnation. We are ruled by two parties that do not differ much and are not likely to change, since they correspond to basic complementary aspects of the regime. . . .

The way to escape an antiworld is by making the real world the standard. Making truth the standard alarms people today because we are affected by liberalism and view truth as intolerant. To the contrary, if truth comes first, principles such as freedom, equality, and human nature can be seen from an inclusive perspective that can give each due credit without one tyrannizing over the others. If something else comes first, we are treating something as a highest principle that cannot function as such, and that means irrationality and oppression.

 

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.


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