Liberalismo, populismo e tecnocracia

Jan-Werner Mueller, “Can Liberalism Save Itself?“:

Needless to say, technocratic rhetoric provides an excellent opening for populists, because it invites the very questions that populists are wont to ask: Where are the citizens in all this? How can there be a democracy without choices? This is how technocracy and populism can start to reinforce one another. They can seem like opposites – the intellectual versus the emotional, the rational versus the irrational. And yet each is ultimately a form of anti-pluralism.

The technocratic assertion that there is only one rational solution to a problem means that anyone who disagrees with that solution is irrational, just as the populist claim that there is only one authentic popular will means that anyone who disagrees must be a traitor to the people. Lost in the fateful technocratic-populist interplay is everything one might think of as crucial to democracy: competing arguments, an exchange of ideas, compromise. In the absence of democratic discourse, politics becomes a contest between only two options. And those committed to either side share the view that there are never any alternatives.

Dos erros do liberalismo

John Gray, “The problem of hyper-liberalism”:

If history is any guide, large numbers want a sense of security as much as, or more than, personal autonomy.

Liberals who rail at populist movements are adamant that voters who support them are deluded or deceived. The possibility that these movements are exploiting needs that highly individualist societies cannot satisfy is not seriously considered. In the liberalism that has prevailed over the past generation such needs have been dismissed as atavistic prejudices, which must be swept away wherever they stand in the way of schemes for transnational government or an expanding global market. This stance is one reason why anti-liberal movements continue to advance. Liberalism and empiricism have parted company, and nothing has been learnt. Some of the strongest evidence against the liberal belief that we learn from our errors and follies comes from the behaviour of liberals themselves.

(…).

In the past, liberals have struggled to reconcile their commitment to liberty with a recognition that people need a sense of collective belonging as well. In other writings Mill balanced the individualism of On Liberty with an understanding that a common culture is necessary if freedom is to be secure, while Isaiah Berlin acknowledged that for most people being part of a community in which they can recognize themselves is an integral part of a worthwhile life. These insights were lost, or suppressed, in the liberalism that prevailed after the end of the Cold War. If it was not dismissed as ata­vistic, the need for a common identity was regarded as one that could be satisfied in private life. A global space was coming into being that would recognize only universal humanity. Any artefact that embodied the achievements of a particular state or country could only be an obstacle to this notional realm. The hyper-liberal demand that public spaces be purged of symbols of past oppression continues a post-Cold War fantasy of the end of history.

Liberals who are dismayed at the rise of the new intolerance have not noticed how much they have in common with those who are imposing it. Hyper-liberal “snowflakes”, who demand safe spaces where they cannot be troubled by disturbing facts and ideas, are what their elders have made them. Possessed by faith in an imaginary humanity, both seek to weaken or destroy the national and religious traditions that have supported freedom and toleration in the past. Insignificant in itself and often comically absurd, the current spate of campus frenzies may come to be remembered for the part it played in the undoing of what is still described as the liberal West.

Liberalismo e conservadorismo

Ryan Shorthouse, “The right-wing case against populism”:

In fact, liberalism and conservatism are two distinct philosophies that are often presented in perpetual conflict—but they are natural bedfellows. They need, support and tame each other.

The goals of liberalism—individual flourishing, power and respect—can only be developed by enduring cultural, democratic and civic institutions that teach, guide and protect people. The conservative emphasis on interdependency between—not just independence of—people to cultivate responsibility towards others and to future generations, can only truly be realised if we respect the liberal insight that all and different individuals are equally worthy. As for taming one another, the liberal individual can be rooted in reality and responsibility by conservative institutions. Conversely, traditional culture and institutions can be modernised by legitimate calls for emancipation and inclusion.

It is liberalism, not authoritarian populism, which is a true friend of western conservatism.

Sobre o politicamente correcto

Raymond Boudon, Os Intelectuais e o Liberalismo (Lisboa: Gradiva, 2005), 85-86:

Podemos afirmar que estes diversos factores – a descida média das exigências escolares e universitárias, a implantação de uma epistemologia que desvaloriza o conceito de um saber objectivo – produziram ainda outro efeito de importância crucial: contribuíram para um alastramento do moralismo nos meios do ensino e, mais ainda, nos meios intelectuais, já que é mais fácil emitir um juízo moral sobre um determinado episódio histórico ou sobre um determinado fenómeno social do que compreendê-lo. Compreender pressupõe ao mesmo tempo informação e competência analítica. Emitir um juízo moral, pelo contrário, não pressupõe nenhuma competência especial. O reconhecimento da capacidade de compreender pressupõe uma concepção objectivista do conhecimento. O reconhecimento da capacidade de sentir, não. Acresce que, se um dado juízo moral vai ao encontro da sensibilidade de um certo público, ou cumpre os dogmas que cimentam uma determinada rede de influência, pode ser socialmente rentável.

A isto é preciso acrescentar, antecipando uma objecção possível, que o relativismo cognitivo – o relativismo em matéria de saber – não implica de maneira nenhuma o relativismo em matéria de moral. Pelo contrário, o relativismo cognitivo estimula a ética da convicção. Porque, como uma convicção não pode, à luz do relativismo cognitivo, ser objectivamente fundamentada, o facto de ser vivida como justa é facilmente encarado como único critério que permite validá-la. Este critério tende por isso a ser considerado necessário e suficiente. O episódio do Quebeque a que anteriormente me referi, em que um grupo de feministas propôs que fossem atenuadas as exigências do doutoramento a favor das mulheres, com o argumento de que o saber é sempre incerto enquanto as exigências morais são irrecusáveis, é um exemplo que atesta este efeito.

Assim se compreende que a desvalorização do saber possa ser acompanhada de uma sobrevalorização da moral ou, mais exactamente, de uma exacerbação das exigências em matéria de igualdade em detrimento de outros valores. É talvez este fenómeno que algumas expressões hoje repetidas à exaustão tentam captar: «o pensamento único», «o politicamente correcto», a political correctness.

Liberais e conservadores precisam uns dos outros

George H. Nash, “Populism, I: American conservatism and the problem of populism”:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the three independent wings of the conservative revolt against the Left began to coalesce around National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. Apart from his extraordinary talents as a writer, debater, and public intellectual, Buckley personified each impulse in the developing coalition. He was at once a traditional Christian, a defender of the free market, and a staunch anticommunist (a source of his ecumenical appeal to conservatives).

As this consolidation began to occur, a serious challenge arose to the fragile conservative identity: a growing and permanent tension between the libertarians and the traditionalists. To the libertarians the highest good in society was individual liberty, the emancipation of the autonomous self from external (especially governmental) restraint. To the traditionalists (who tended to be more religiously oriented than most libertarians) the highest social good was not unqualified freedom but ordered freedom grounded in community and resting on the cultivation of virtue in the individual soul. Such cultivation, argued the traditionalists, did not arise spontaneously. It needed the reinforcement of mediating institutions (such as schools, churches, and synagogues) and at times of the government itself. To put it another way, libertarians tended to believe in the beneficence of an uncoerced social order, both in markets and morals. The traditionalists often agreed, more or less, about the market order (as opposed to statism), but they were far less sanguine about an unregulated moral order.

Not surprisingly, this conflict of visions generated a tremendous controversy on the American Right in the early 1960s, as conservative intellectuals attempted to sort out their first principles. The argument became known as the freedom-versus-virtue debate. It fell to a former Communist and chief ideologist at National Review, a man named Frank Meyer, to formulate a middle way that became known as fusionism—that is, a fusing or merging of the competing paradigms of the libertarians and the traditionalists. In brief, Meyer argued that the overriding purpose of government was to protect and promote individual liberty, but that the supreme purpose of the free individual should be to pursue a life of virtue, unfettered by and unaided by the State.

As a purely theoretical construct, Meyer’s fusionism did not convince all his critics, then or later. But as a formula for political action and as an insight into the actual character of American conservatism, his project was a considerable success. He taught libertarian and traditionalist purists that they needed one another and that American conservatism must not become doctrinaire. To be relevant and influential, it must stand neither for dogmatic antistatism at one extreme nor for moral authoritarianism at the other, but for a society in which people are simultaneously free to choose and desirous of choosing the path of virtue.

(…).

What do conservatives want? To put it in elementary terms, I believe they want what nearly all conservatives since 1945 have wanted: they want to be free; they want to live virtuous and meaningful lives; and they want to be secure from threats both beyond and within our borders. They want to live in a society whose government respects and encourages these aspirations while otherwise leaving people alone. Freedom, virtue, and safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement as it has developed over the past seventy years. In other words, there is at least a little fusionism in nearly all of us. It is something to build on. But it will take time.

Globalização, liberalismo e comunitarismo

Amitai Etzioni, “We must not be enemies”:

As I see it, the rise of right-wing populism in the United States and in Europe can be attributed to no small extent to the profound misunderstanding globalists have of community and communitarian values. Globalists tend to view society as composed of freestanding individuals, each of whom has his or her own individual rights and is keen to pursue his or her own self-interest. As a result, globalists assume that, given the proper information, their fellow citizens will see that their aging societies are refreshed by immigration, that free trade raises the standard of living for everyone, and that individual rights outweigh tribalism.

The trouble with this liberal view of society is less what it claims and more what it leaves out: namely, that people are also social creatures, whose flourishing and psychological well-being depend on strong, lasting, meaningful relationships with others and on the sharing of moral and social values. These relationships and values are found in national and local communities (including families, which are micro-communities). By definition, communities are circumscribed rather than all-inclusive and are inevitably parochial rather than global. Still, the values of communities can be reconciled with globalist values.

If the goal of progressives is to reduce right-wing populism, violence, prejudice, and xenophobia, then communities must be nurtured as they are urged toward equanimity, the rejection of unfounded fears, and above all tolerance. These goals cannot be achieved by denigrating parochialism. Rather, globalists must understand that parochialism can be reconfigured but cannot, and should not, be eliminated.

(…)

Above all, globalists ignore the effects of free trade on people’s essential communitarian needs. Economists often fail to understand people who are reluctant to move from West Virginia to Montana, say, when the coal industry is declining but the gas industry is growing. They do not sufficiently consider that people lose their communal bonds when they make such moves. People leave behind the friends they can call on when they are sick or grieving and the places where their elders are buried. Their children miss their own friends, and everyone in the family feels ripped away from the centers of their social lives: school, church, social club, union hall, or American Legion post. A reliable evaluation of the benefits of trade should take into account the destructive effects on communities of churning the labor force. We should at least feel the pain of the casualties of free trade rather than denigrate them as redneck boors who just don’t get it.

(…)

Globalists favor the free movement of people across national borders. They strongly support the Schengen Agreement, which removes border controls among many members of the European Union. They cheered Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, for welcoming millions of immigrants to Germany. And they view Trump’s call for building a wall on the Mexican border and restriction on immigration from Muslim countries as typical right-wing, xenophobic, reactionary policies.

However, the well-known social psychologist Jonathan Haidt views mass immigration as the trigger that set off the authoritarian impulses of many nations. He concludes that it is possible to have moderate levels of immigration from “morally different ethnic groups”—so long as they are seen to be “assimilating to the host culture”—but high levels of immigration from countries with different moral values, without successful assimilation, will trigger an authoritarian backlash. Haidt suggests that immigration policies ought to take into account three factors: “the percentage of foreign-born residents at any given time; the degree of moral difference [between the] incoming group [and the members of the host society]; and the degree of assimilation being achieved by each group’s children.” Globalists do not approve of this approach.

Progressives are sure to continue to favor a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. But they’d better pay more attention to the further acculturation of this large group than many globalists do. To favor unlimited immigration—whatever the numbers and the cultural differences—is possible only if human rights outweigh all concerns about the value and importance of communal bonds, shared moral understanding, and a sense of identity, history, and fate. Adding a sizable number of people who are indistinguishable from its current members will stress a given community. Adding a large number of culturally distinct people is very likely to engender social tensions. The answer is not to draw up the bridges or build walls but to adopt realistic sociological strategies for absorbing immigrants into their new, host communities.

(…)

Even a global community, if one can be forged, would have to be constructed on top of local, regional, and national communities, rather than as a single independent entity composed of more than seven billion individuals, each with individual rights but no social bonds or set of shared values. Thus, universalism and parochialism can be combined, but attempts to maximize either position are sure to lead to troubling, socially disturbing results.

(…)

Communitarian sociologists have been pointing out that, for two centuries, the rise of modernity has threatened the communal bonds and shared moral cultures that are essential for a person’s sense of identity, emotional stability, and moral codes. Studies of the rise of Nazism show that communities serve as the best antidote to the mass appeal of demagogues. The kind of reasoned, self-governing, tolerant, civil person whom globalists favor is much less likely to be found among individuals outside the bonds of community than among people with stable social bonds, imbued with a proper moral culture. Hence, globalists have strong reasons to shore up communities.

(…)

Progressives should remember that nobody can bond with seven billion people, and almost everyone feels more responsibility toward those closest to them. People have profound needs for lasting social relations, meaning, and shared moral beliefs. Globalist values can be combined with nationalist, parochial ones—demanding that communities not violate individual rights while allowing them to foster bonds and values for their members in the ways that suit them best.

Local communities need to be nurtured rather than denounced, not only because they satisfy profound human needs but also because they anchor people to each other and thus help to dilute appeals to their worst instincts. Championing fair trade, fostering diversity within a framework of unity and shared values, and accepting many kinds of communities as long as they respect rights—all are positions that show understanding and even empathy for citizens who voted for Donald Trump and will go a long way toward making America as great as it can be.