Phillip Blond is hard at work on his book, Red Tory, following the great success of his essay Rise of the Red Tories. He has a piece critiquing the “state authoritarianism and private libertarianism” of modern liberalism in the New Statesmen which is fairly similar to many of the other things Blond has written on the subject. To wit:
Why and how is the political philosophy that is most evidently social, and claims all righteousness and power as a result in fact so asocial and unilateral? The answer is that, for the most part, socialism is founded on liberalism and liberalism is founded on a hatred of society [….]
But this autonomy can be protected only if others do not violate its bounds; and this is a role that can be played by the state only. The state then becomes the great policer and equaliser of humanity, and through the general will it must reconcile each individual with every other. As such, the state must strip society and people of all differential ties, beliefs and values in order to ensure equality and fairness; naked and denuded we now stand equal and alone before the state as the ultimate guarantor of our freedom.
Thus does modern liberalism underwrite all the great totalitarianisms of our age, from the terror of revolutionary France to the Cultural Revolution of Mao in China.
Now that’s quite a leap if you ask me. I was at one point quite taken with many of Blond’s arguments. Lately they’ve struck me as quite a lot more hollow than I once believed. Or at least riddled with a few more holes. This next passage is a particularly seductive bit of rhetoric:
A rampant individualism demands a community exactly like itself. This repressive lineage passes directly into the left through Marx, and after Marx the left became both statist and individualist – a disastrous dialectic that has progressively and aggressively erased culture, custom, difference and ultimately society itself. “Socialism” so conceived is indeed the enemy of society; it despises the world as it is and seeks instead to eradicate differential values and tradition, in the mistaken belief that we must all be the same if we are to be free.
Where Blond finds fault in liberalism, Douglas Rushkoff (author of Life Inc.) finds fault in corporatism. Both seem to yearn for a past that never was. Where Blond sees statism and individualism as having “progressively and aggressively erased culture, custom, difference and ultimately society itself” I see merely society evolving. I see the death of an aesthetic. Have we lost something? Yes! We are always shedding our cultural skin. That’s how traditions are cultivated. Tradition and progress coexist in a destructive, haphazard “civilizational tango.” Should we fight to preserve certain aspects of our traditions? Naturally. But we can never combat modernity.
Technology, wealth, and indeed liberalism itself have all most certainly helped to erase some important traditions, some important values – and we should do our best to revive what we can of at least some of the lost artifacts of our society. I heard recently that beer taxes in the UK have gotten so high the local pubs are emptying, and a valuable tradition of meeting as communities at the pub is drying up. Countless other examples of the oppressive state, of greedy corporations, of libertinism that would make the Marquis de Sade grimace, of empty consumerism – of all these side effects of our day and age – can be dredged up and used to argue that there is something wrong – something broken – about society.
And yet, one wonders if this has always been the case; if there is a Phillip Blond in every age, railing against the wickedness of the here and now. Perhaps it is best to take the Red Tories with a grain of salt. In the end it’s not obvious what the Red Tories might wish to establish in place of this sorry world of ours. If my hunch is correct, and technology and human nature are equal partners in our modern collective sins, then I’m not sure any counterrevolution against liberalism or capitalism will bring about the rebirth Blond predicts.
I do believe good things have been lost. I believe many of Blond’s critiques about society have a great deal of relevance. I do believe communities used to be stronger – before we placed such physical and spiritual distances between one another. But at the heart of this the responsibility is our own, the fall from grace our own fall, and its remedy lies within us and within our families – not with the state, not with the big bad corporations, or classical liberalism or modern leftism or any other scapegoat. Or to put it rather more simply, the fault, dear Phillip, lies not in our stars but in ourselves.
On display in the ACORN videos is the true mind of the underclass in America. A mind ground down by poverty, made vicious and mean by the failure of Christianity, made weak and subservient by entitlement and victimology, and made cynical, violent, and desperate by a system of double standards and spoils which leaves them on the outside looking in. A mind that scoffs at the law, thinks nothing of child prostitution, accepts political corruption as a fact akin to gravity, views other people as nothing but pieces to be played [….]
On the other side is the boomer mind, which is arguably the mind animating the tea-parties themselves. It is a mind grown fat on entitlement, made weak, stupid, and sebservient from excess and conspicuous consumption, made hypocritical and self-centered by the failure of Christianity, and grown cynical and desperate by a system of spoils and double standards that they only now are realizing is threatening to leave them on the outs.
What both the underclass and the boomers have in common is dependence on the State (they are relationships of mutual exploitation) and, in my judgment, the inability or refusal to work. America has ceased being a people who work for themselves. Self-government cannot long last in this climate. For if you won’t work for yourself, eventually you will be enslaved, perhaps even willingly.