Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power. Much of its discourse is still fixated on an eighteenth-century Enlightenment fantasy of the “Republic of Letters,” which paints politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. The best program, when well argued by the wise and well-intentioned, is assumed to prevail in the end. Political action is disconnected, in this worldview, from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence.
04 June 2013
Liberalism with Teeth?
The June 10/17 double issue of The Nation features a "Letter to the Nation From a Young Radical" asking "Has Liberalism Failed?" Bhaskar Sunkara is a self-styled Jacobin -- he edits a publication of that name -- and has long seen himself as a radical rather than a liberal. In Sunkara's view liberalism "seemed, even at its best moments, well-intentioned but inadequate." At those best moments, "liberalism once had teeth." Too often, however, liberalism seems willfully toothless. As Sunkara explains: