Is liberalism a failed project?


I am reading this interesting book in which the author makes the case for rethinking liberalism. If he’s correct, liberalism is self-contradictory and is a failed project.

Somewhere in the book, he writes that liberalism’s end game is unsustainable in every respect, that is,

It cannot perpetually enforce order upon a collection of autonomous individuals increasingly shorn of constitutive social norms, nor can it provide endless material growth in a world of limits.

By the time I finish reading the book, I will know how I feel about it. Though I know of a tweep who has been consistent in arguing that liberal democracy has not worked for Africa and instead we have ended up with electoral authoritarianism. He argues, the claims made or goods that liberal democracy was claimed would make possible have remained but a chimera and it is time thoughtful citizens among us developed a system that would answer our present crises while offering hope for future generations.

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

19 thoughts on “Is liberalism a failed project?

  1. He argues, the claims made or goods that liberal democracy was claimed would make possible have remained but a chimera and it is time thoughtful citizens among us developed a system that would answer our present crises while offering hope for future generations.

    Good luck. People have been trying to develop such an idealistic system for thousands of years… and failed every time. Why? Because the desire for such a system is incongruent with human nature. It is impossible to conceive a one-size-fits-all system which will satisfy everyone. We’re just too different from each other. We have different interests and priorities. We can’t stop arguing amongst ourselves.

    There are two basic forms of government. One allows ordinary people to have a voice and to participate (i.e. democracy), and the other does not (i.e. authoritarianism). One allows public policy to be determined through debate, and the other sets public policy through force.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hariod Brawn says:

      . . . and then there’s Corporatocracy, which I think is more or less what we have.

      Liked by 2 people

    • makagutu says:

      The question is how far does ordinary people have a voice in democracies? In most places the most the people do is participate in elections, which are getting manipulated by the day it is impossible to say it is the will of the people, and not much more.

      Like

      • How much voice and participation do ordinary people really have in democracies? That depends entirely on how well democracy is practiced in each nation. Here are some examples, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

        New Zealand: rank=4, score=9.26, category=full democracy.
        United States: rank=21, score=7.98, category=flawed democracy.
        Kenya: rank=95, score=5.11, category=hybrid regime.
        Russia: rank=135, score=3.17, category=authoritarian.

        It is plainly evident that all democracies are not equal. It is also plainly evident that the further away from true democracy a nation is, and the closer to authoritarianism a nation is, then the LESS voice and participation in government ordinary people have.

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      • basenjibrian says:

        I think, again, that you are pursuing a myth, Maka. Is there really a singular Will Of The People? (All Caps?) I disagree that it is that simple. Are “the people” existing in a sea of mass media, propaganda, and religious paranoia necessarily best in pure form?

        Is mob rule (arguably the purest expression of will of (some of) the people universally better than the flawed, always struggling hybrids? Do the Islamist mobs in Pakistan this past week represent “the” will of “the people”….or does the poorly run and corrupt “democracy” if the Pakistani state?. It depends if one is the victim of Islamist demands for purity or the Defender of the Faith, I suppose. But the answer is not as clear as you seem to believe as a matter of “faith”?

        As for the horrors of corporacracy…sure, it can be taken too far into fascism. It has in the past. The contrary can be true, also…government dominated by (corrupt) labor unions that crash (repeatedly, for decades) the overall economy. And you get….Argentina. which swings back and forth between Peronism and Fascism. Given the demands of the regulatory state and the plush profits to be made by serving said state, in what real human polity can one expect “corporations” or “the wealthy” to NOT spend oodles of their (perhaps corruptly acquired) cash to influence decisions? Regulatory Capture is real yet understandable.
        Do you trust more a tribal demagogue, a religious “maximum leader” or naïve bureaucrat or politician to understand all of the complexities of the industry they regulate or contracts they let? Or a socialist academic “Party Leader” like Brother Zero (Pol Pot).

        I don’t. 🙂

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        • makagutu says:

          The defenders of democracy say it is a government of the people, for the people by the people. What definition of the people they use, I don’t know. So we are in agreement that what the people is is amorphous and not well defined.

          I don’t think I have expressed any preference for mob rule. All I try to do is to ask a question, that is, must things be as they are? Or can we think of a difference. While you say I am holding a position of faith, it does seem to me you are committed to the faith that things cannot be different and we have the best of all possible worlds.

          So to answer your question, no I despise demagogues. I find them despicable

          Liked by 1 person

    • basenjibrian says:

      Well…I think it is more complicated than that. Even the most authoritarian system allows for SOME debate. Maximum Leaders fall eventually when they fail to assuage the powers in a society. Even if the powers are only the Praetorian Guard. See Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

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      • makagutu says:

        One of the presidents of Nigeria, a military dictator, I think it was Babangida, allowed the citizens to have debate on anything under the world but they had no say in governance.
        Same thing happens in many places. I am not sure how much control the American citizens have on the surveillance state? Or the military state or these are issues beyond the pale of the civic?

        Liked by 1 person

        • basenjibrian says:

          Very little, sad to say. It’s not a matter of Republican Party either. The bipartisan consensus of the War and Wall Street Party rolls ever onward!

          Look at one of my favorite topics: Our close alliance with the Head Choppin’ House of Saud is followed by both parties. The horrors of American Middle Eastern and South Asian (and Central American) policy…a century old and really ramped up by the Saintly Peanut Farmer Jimmy Carter (a nuclear submarine commander, by the way)

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          • makagutu says:

            Is it this way at the state level too? Are do the citizens have more say in local politics and governance?
            It appears, from Deneen’s argument, and from the federalist papers that the Fed is working like it was meant to be. The likes of Madison, if Deneen is right, intended it to be this way, where citizens have little say about what goes on

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      • Even the most authoritarian system allows for SOME debate.

        Sure, there was “SOME” debate under Hitler and Stalin. But, that’s besides the point. No matter what kind of facade is erected (e.g. “elections” under Putin), authoritarian systems determine public policy exclusive of the larger populace. Decisions can be made arbitrarily, as in the case of autocracy (dictatorship, monarchy, etc.); or, decisions can be made according to authoritarian legal constructs, as in the case of theocracy (e.g. Iran’s Islamic republic). Only functional democracies allow public policy to be determined inclusive of the larger populace.

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  2. basenjibrian says:

    As for the book in question…have not read it. I am still not sure I would give up our flawed liberal system for the Catholic Fascism of the author. I agree with Robert Vella there. Sure, an Italian Catholic commune is more beautiful than an American strip mall suburb, but it is based on superstition that I would find hard to accept, despite its good points.

    Liked by 1 person

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