October 9th, 2016
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
The liberal system’s weak spots did not go away. It delivered peace and order and prosperity, but it attenuated pre-liberal forces – tribal, familial, religious — that speak more deeply than consumer capitalism to basic human needs: the craving for honor, the yearning for community, the desire for metaphysical hope.
Those needs endured, muted but not eliminated by greater social equality and rising G.D.P. Nonetheless the liberal consensus seemed impressively resilient, even in the midst of elite misgovernment. 9/11 did not shake it meaningfully, nor did the Iraq war, and it seemed at first to weather the financial crisis as well.
Now, though, there is suddenly resistance. Its political form is an angry nationalism, a revolt of the masses in both the United States and Europe. But the more important development may be happening in intellectual circles, where many younger writers regard the liberal consensus as something to be transcended or rejected, rather than reformed or redeemed.
I’ve written about some of these ideas before, but a taxonomy seems useful. The first post-liberal school might be called the new radicals, a constellation of left-wing writers for whom the Marxist dream lives anew. In journals-of-ideas like Jacobin and n+1 and in the crucible of protest politics, they have tried to forge a unified critique of the liberal-capitalist order out of a diversity of issues: structural racism and sexism, climate change, economic inequality and more.
No full-spectrum agenda uniting Thomas Piketty and Naomi Klein and Ta-Nehisi Coates has yet emerged. But the left’s fractiousness, its complicated race-sexuality-class feuds, have an energy that’s conspicuously absent closer to the neoliberal center. And they are infused with an exasperation with procedural liberalism, an eagerness to purge and police and shame our way toward a more perfect justice than the post-Cold War order has produced.