The Future of Post-Liberalism

A brief summary of the The Future of Post-Liberalism seminar hosted by ResPublica with the participation of Adrian Vermeule, Patrick Deneen, and others.

This is a summary of The Future of Post-Liberalism seminar on July 16, 2020, hosted by ResPublica, along with some of my comments. The participants were Phillip Blond, Patrick Deneen, Adrian Vermeule, Ryszard Legutko, Nick Timothy, and Mary Harrington as moderator. I recommend watching it in full (link below) but here are the highlights.

First, post-liberalism is a new idea and this was a good intro/discussion about where it should go. I discerned two camps: an international post-liberalism represented by Blond, Vermeule, and Deneen, and a national one represented by Legutko and Timothy.

The case for international post-liberalism was made early on and succinctly by Blond: post-liberal universalism is needed to respond to liberal universalism. I agree with this because liberalism has been successful and difficult to challenge due to its insistence on ubiquity.

Lest we believe liberalism is indeed ubiquitous, Legutko points out that Poland has not been dominantly liberal for it to be post-liberal. I think this is why countries like Poland and Hungary inundated with liberalism vs. a progressive adoption are at the forefront of opposition.

While I believe that post-liberalism must be universal, I understand Legutko’s contention that it must to a substantial degree be nationalist. Sounds contradictory but the point is that it needs to have strong national foundations before becoming international, like the Visegrad Group.

Vermeule’s “common-good constitutionalism” – with the aim being common good nested in communities, family, city, nation, and inter/supranational order instead of maximization of individual liberty – speaks to how the hierarchy would operate.

Deneen correctly noted that there needs to be a creation of a post-liberal elite, which doesn’t currently exist in the US (and, yes, the world). Vermeule and Legutko get to this later when discussing institutions. Deneen also makes distinction between international and global.

On question of religion, Vermeule expounds on future’s post-Christian character, describing sacramental liberalism as a “crusading faith.” He and Legutko have made a strong case for this before, Legutko in his book The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies and Vermeule in his review of the book, Liturgy of Liberalism.

Both Legutko and Vermeule argue for the important role of Christianity in post-liberalism, with Vermeule saying that Christianity is the “only plausible force” that has the confidence and metaphysical premises to cope with liberalism. Hard to disagree.

On identity politics, Timothy says that it is not necessarily bad and Blond echoes the sentiment, at least in saying that its acolytes aren’t necessarily bad people. Deneen has a more cynical view, saying it’s a weaponization of Mill’s harm principle.

I think Deneen offers an accurate picture of identity politics as it exists today, saying it’s a “tremendously deceptive but brilliant strategy that does the opposite of what it claims to be doing” (i.e. seemingly promoting equality but seeking power over others instead).

Though it’s important to note that Blond rightly advocates distinguishing between modern identity politics and that of the Suffragettes or MLK Jr., which he calls inclusive identity politics (i.e. integration, not segregation, as is the case today).

The final question was about institutions and there was consensus that post-liberals/conservatives must adopt an institutional mindset in developing not only their participation in existing institutions, but creating their own.

Legutko, also a politician, says conservatives in Europe, in his own experience, have been too timid in building institutions. Anyone looking at the EU or myriad derivative organizations and movements throughout Europe – and their success in imposing liberalism – could not disagree.

This is where Vermeule says that post-liberalism should be promoted in existing institutions in the short-term but should start investing in new institutions that will come online decades later. Hear, hear!

In my view, the lack of institutional strength has been the main factor in why conservatives have been crushed by liberalism and I’m glad that was recognized and discussed in the post-liberalism seminar.

One more thing: I was very happy to see the insistence on an international post-liberalism by Blond and Vermeule. I’ve long been disappointed with the insularity of conservatism in the liberal world, which has been an unhelpful and detrimental handicap.

You can watch the entire seminar here: 

This is a revised and updated version of the original which appeared as a Twitter thread.