Working In the Head

Imbolc                                 Waxing Awakening Moon

A day with my head in the books, The Future of Liberalism by Alan Wolfe, for the most part.  I’ve also reviewed notes from my first research for Liberal I:  roots and branches.  My goal in liberal II is to tease out the social and inner context in which liberalism makes a difference, focused this time more on the inner life of the person in the liberal faith tradition and the political liberal in the outside world.  In addition I want to say a few words about the future of the liberal idea as modernity warps and changes, yet remains, in its social dynamics, much the same.

Let me open that up just a bit.  Alan Wolfe makes the point that liberalism has been and is the perfect vehicle for managing modernism, but that modernism itself created the world in which liberal ideas can flourish.  Modernism grew from the enlightenment emphasis on reason pushed into the political arena first by the American and then the French Revolutions.  Their mutual synergy with the Industrial Revolution created a political climate in which different political and social concepts had to sort out their differences.  Liberal democracy, of the sort enshrined in the American constitution and somewhat later changes in Europe and Great Britain, was and is the best vehicle for doing so. Liberal procedural law takes into account differences by its very design.  Consider how an authoritarian regime would handle substantial differences in citizen’s beliefs.

The same holds true for civil societies with multiple strains of religious belief.  In this case, too, the liberal temperament’s willingness to be flexible, to change and adapt has the best hope of creating a culture in which differences breed debate and discussion rather than suppression and violence.

Technological and scientific advances also create turmoil in the culture as does a dominant capitalist economy.  Here again the liberal core values of individual liberty, freedom and equality shave off the roughest edges of this chaotic change so a culture can sustain itself intact.

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