You made a comment that liberal and "left" are pretty much the same thing now. Please don't conflate the liberals with the true Left (at least you put the word in quotes). See Thomas Frank's "Listen Liberal".

There are a few true Leftists still around, although I think most of them are old like me and don't have the energy to get out in the streets anymore. Maybe the apparent growing dissatisfaction of our youth with the authoritarian structure will create more Leftists.


Nevertheless, your analysis is fascinating. I hadn't thought of the dichotomy between tradition and culture and the Liberal devotion to the individual self, but it makes a lot of sense.

I have thought, since college (50 years ago), that the fact that while the history of the US only has few hundred years, the history of European countries (not "Europe") has a couple of millennia, and that makes a huge difference in the culture and traditions that unite a nation (or should).

Your post provides a framework for how this all works out. Thank you. Stay safe.

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An impotant missing factor in this analysis is "technical prowess". Western liberal elites were able to leverage the power of advanced weapons to push their ideologies, even though the role "liberalism" played in the initiation of the technological revolution is questionable. The bidens, von dre leyens, macrons and their ilk are now learning, thanks to V. V. Putin and his team, that without arms their "liberalism" is not worth a plugged penny.

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Dear Sir, the hardcore Liberals' mindset you portray in the final part of your essay (specially their free speech stances) seems eerily close to that quote in one of Frank Herbert's Dune books:

"When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles."

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I hope that you are correct about political changes in Europe when the war is over . However , I am not optimistic . Those with power in Europe will fight to hold on to it ( the US will also have a say ) . Things could get very nasty .

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Your argument brings us to the paradoxical juxtaposition today of modern "Liberalism" and "multiculturalism," with confused definitions. Sharp thinkers (like Brian Barry) have noted that there is a fundamental internal contradiction between these concepts, but that has not kept a sort of "multiculturalism" (basically, a theme park version that removes all that it means for something to be a "culture" in any dimension other than completely superficial and "aesthetic" from the cultures that it claims to encompass) from being ingrained with the modern "Liberal" ethos.

This makes it easy to defraud, ironically, modern "Liberals" using "culture" as a bait. If "culture" is whatever an individual thinks it is, what is and isn't a legitimate culture? So you wind up with "multiculturalist" activists of all stripes "standing up" for largely made up "cultures" that appeal to the imaginations and prejudices of the "Liberal" class, supposedly as alternatives to illiberal and "outdated" bad cultures. And, of course, PMC types get puzzled why Muslims, say, continue to embrace the old fashioned religion, with the accompanying flocks, traditions, and other social components of a culture, rather than the "progressive and new agey" versions of Islam that they like. (I'd say something analogous about Christian fundamentalists, but most of these don't count as legitimate "cultures," at least in United States, to the "Liberals" so not useful as an example.) They, then, often compound the problem by starting a fight over theology, as if a "religion" is purely an intellectual venture--I've found atheists to be surprisingly well-informed and articulate about particulars of Christian theology that they use to drive home why Christian fundamentalists are not only "wrong," but "ignorant" about their own religion, but in practice, that only serves to puff their own ego and offend their interlocutors who are actually religious, for example. Of course, the thing about Muslims (or, other "minorities") is that, even when dismayed, Liberals seem frightened of saying outright that the Muslim fundamentalists are illegitimate because they don't approve of them. (and to be fair, for all the whinging by Christian fundamentalists, they are not targeted by forces of the state, only subject to the less constraind derision by the Liberals)

So this brings us back to the argument that you have often brought up: not just every "state," but pretty much every sustainable "society" has to be, in some form, "civilizational," with a set of symbols to keep its members anchored, and even though, ultimately, these symbols may not have an intellectually defensible meaning, they cannot be created out of thin air. (King Charles, say, may not be much, but you can't just bring anyone in by fiat, put a crown on him/her/it, and pretend that this new "king" is legitimate as any other)--I'm reminded of the now mostly forgotten schemes of the neocons in Iraq--they had a new flag, new constitution, and all sorts of other symbols for the new Iraqi state prepared in advance of the invasion, only to be genuinely surprised that Iraqis, of all tribal/ethnic/religious groups, reject them wholeheartedly in favor of old Baathist era symbols.

No matter what we like, it seems, history does not end, and you can't redefine history to your liking today, it seems--even if the history is not actually accurate, or, rather, especially if the history is not really accurate. (Or, should the term be "histories"? We live in a Rashomon world, after all.)

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"It’s hard to find an answer to the accusation 'I suppose you think it’s OK to lock people up without trial then?'"

There's an easy answer to that question. In this context, it is: 'Julian Assange'.

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"In the end, all states have to be “civilisational” or they will not survive."

The anarchists among us might be ok with demise of states. Communities without strict states, sovereignty and the violent rule of law can be civilized too and may be better custodians of culture and tradition than the state has been.

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> "...and finally creating a zone of relative peace, on top of an amazing cultural and intellectual heritage."

Wasn't that the result of external factors, specifically the Soviet Union and the USA pointing doomsday weapons at each-other and at their respective European allies?

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As usual, your essays present much food for thought. I usually need to read them a couple of times before the full meaning sinks in.

One minor quibble, though: it was Giordano Bruno (not Giovanni) who was burned at the stake on the serenely named Campo dei Fiori in February, 1600.

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Thank you, very useful new perspective. The success of science may have caused an illusion of human society being in a similar state of progress. Recovering from illusions is hard work.

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This could not be more timely. You are stating coherently the ideas and sentiments that have animated me throughout my life. How does one have rights without duties? There is power in "we don't do that here." and should a question follow the statement, there is no reason. It is custom. Laws and rules are thin beer by comparison. Thank you.

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May 27, 2023·edited May 27, 2023

One important dimension to consider is how easily the new "civilization" that states of tomorrow will be built around will be constructed.

This seems a tricky process: creating a new "civilization" can be surprisingly easy and swift if there is a shared interest in creating one (and willingness on the part of the outsiders to assimilate and the "incumbent insiders" to bend their demands. But these are not easily achievable, or even systematically describable process--and it is not clear who exactly the outsiders who need to assimilate and who the insiders who will need to accommodate are in many cases. But many immigrant societies did successfully assimilate waves of "outsiders" in a generation or two.

Complicating the process is that the demands and "requirements" made of the outsiders who are sufficiently "different" can be daunting for a variety of reasons. The history of Catholics in United States is illustrative, on multiple dimensions: the attempts by the mainstream (Protestant) society in early to middle 19th century to create a common "civilization" behind their shared characteristics had trouble accommodating Catholics as key components of their religious practices could not be made to fit. Most Protestant denominations in US, certainly at that time, essentially standardized on the King James Bible, for example. Catholics, for historical reasons, would not, at least as a collective. American Catholics, in turn, had trouble assimilating Uniates from Eastern Europe (mostly, ironically, from the Austrian piece of Ukraine): they were, by canon law, Catholics and their rights and practices were guaranteed by the Vatican, but they looked different and had different practices (e.g. married priests) and ran afoul the American bishops who were trying to create a common "civilization" of their own that could collectively bargain with the Protestant version of "American civilization" for its space. Many Uniates in America, in late 19th century, consequently, joined the Moscow-based Orthodoxy in face of discrimination and spite from American Catholic establishment--something oddly ironic given the way history has been reconstructed today (in this case, based on very real repression against Uniates by both the Czars and the Soviets in the Ukrainian lands). Perhaps enough mythologies can be created to cover up the cracks and make it feasible to form a new civilization--but the variants of "multiculturalism" that have become fashionable lately makes it difficult by essentializing the "cultural differences," in addition to the legalistic tendencies of Liberalism as Aurelien described.

Perhaps a mytholized version of "Liberalism" can itself be the mythology that a new "civilization" is built around? In a sense, United States, for example, was heading in that direction at various times, although, in every one of those instances, it ran into stumbling blocks born of the inherent contradiction--some group of "troublemakers," if they get loud enough, could throw monkey wrench in the path of the "civilizational" compromise in the name of Liberal principles (I always found it, eh, interesting that Liberal principles, i.e. sanctity of property in the hands of the individual, was the monkey wrench thrown by defenders of slavery to wreck for good the eternally tortured attempt at finding a civilizational compromise in mid-19th century United States. In retrospect, we might feel better that this sort of compromise never came to be, but the same sort of retrospective relief has wrecked many nations-in-formation, albeit over far less odious matters.

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A prolegomena to a civilizational mode of politics in "the West:"




Be Serious


Mutual Benefit


Keep Your Word

Indivisible Security

Peaceful Readiness

No Threats Or Conditions

Common Security Architecture

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I have no brief for Theresa May, her colleagues, nor the awful history of the political party she once led, but she was onto something when she said, "If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere." That's how I think of liberal internationalists -- "citizens of nowhere."

Well, I don't live nowhere, I live somewhere.

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This is why like Substack. Enlightenment. Thank you.

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Just an amusing thought: Stalin, in 1941, called upon "grandsons of Suvorov, sons of Kutuzov" (I always thought it amusing that he didn't invoke the memory of Pyotr Bagration as well...) to resist the invaders, a sentiment echoed almost word by word by Putin just weeks ago. If such an existential threat faced the West today, I wonder what kind of symbols they could call upon?

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