Monday, January 07, 2008


My colleague Will Roberts has posted the outline of his introductory lecture to Radical Political Thought.
Third, what differentiates Leftist from Rightist anti-liberalism?

Here I’m going to declare by fiat: Leftist anti-liberalism is resolutely anti-capitalist, while Rightist anti-liberalism tends to incorporate capitalism within a set of state structures even as it jettisons the (liberal) justificatory discourse of capitalism. Thus, in Rightist anti-liberal regimes, market mechanisms tend to be infiltrated by naked uses of force or violence: an increase in slave or convict labor, other forms of servitude, formation of mafia-like cartels, price-fixing and intimidation, etc.

Part of the Leftist case against liberalism is that it surreptitiously relies upon Rightist anti-liberalism to establish itself and function. In other words, there is a necessary violence disavowed by the liberal theory of justice. In Mao's "Combat Liberalism," he portrays liberalism as a character flaw marked above all by passive aggression. Liberals say "peace" to your face--or say nothing at all--and then look the other way while the Corleones take your farm and build a casino on it.

Obviously, I'm not in much sympathy with that way of carving things up. Right-anti-liberalism seems to be getting defined in a particular way for the purpose of serving the subsequent thesis that liberalism relies on it, and of ensuring that left-anti-liberalism is free of its taint. I guess there's Pinochet there, or Mussolini in practice-though-not-theory, but... Where is church, or aristocracy, or blood and soil, or nation, or the aesthetic-aristocratic-tory-environmentalist critique of market liberalism that runs from Carlyle and Ruskin through to John Gray? I can't recognize Maistre in that description, or Fichte, or Metternich, or Kirk This is a serious construction of the category of rightist anti-liberalism. There is plenty of anti-capitalism on the antiliberal right; and no great political theory or political ideology is free of uncomfortable connections or resemblances to the others...