HEADLINE: Are We Postliberal Yet? by Michael Hanby
- The deepest problems with our political order are not themselves political but metaphysical and theological.
- FROM THE ARTICLE: The first is to indicate the nature, size, and scope of liberal order, without which it is impossible to understand its totalitarian character as a total interpretation of reality, the horizon within which other social facts are permitted to appear, that recreates everything in the image of its own fundamental assumptions. The second is to establish something of a backdrop for the ensuing discussion of “postliberalism,” about which there seems to be a good deal of confusion. Serious Catholic and Christian critiques of liberalism, for a long time roughly grouped together as “postliberal,” are in at least their second or third generation. Patrick Deneen referred to this strain of thought in an early article before his breakthrough book, Why Liberalism Failed. Mentored by this earlier generation of anti-liberal philosophers and theologians, I myself have been a critic of liberalism my entire career, though I have never used the term “postliberal” to describe my own thought. Nevertheless, this earlier strain of “postliberal” thought never succeeded in capturing the public, or even the ecclesial, imagination. Three things have transpired in recent years, however, to transform the situation. First, events have finally vindicated these earlier generations of critics, falsifying both the “fusionism” that synthesized social conservatism with libertarian economics as well as the Americanism of Catholic neo-conservatives, a distinction with little difference.
- FROM THE ARTICLE: Second, and partly as a consequence of the first, “postliberalism” has acquired that special sort of reality that can be conferred only by the attention of the American pundit class. A tree falling in the forest doesn’t make a sound until the New York Times hears it, and it is only with the attention of a Ross Douthat, or a David Brooks, or even a Rod Dreher or Sohrab Ahmari that ideas achieve reality in the public consciousness. Third and last, social media have made potential journalists and pundits of us all, thereby making this power to determine the boundaries of “the real” potentially available to anyone who can succeed in building a personal brand and establishing a following. In consequence of all this, “postliberalism” has burst into the public consciousness as a phenomenon in itself—a banner to march under for some, a dangerous but useful foil for others—exceeding the narrow genre of political philosophy or the theses of any given thinker. But what sort of phenomenon is this, and how should we understand it?
- We live in a world of indifference.
- Seek ye first the kingdom of God!