Beyond Liberalism, Where Relations Grow

Beyond Liberalism, Where Relations Grow

Beyond Liberalism, Where Relations Grow

Beyond Liberalism, Where Relations Grow

Excerpt

Defeated in our most fundamental enterprises, we may find it possible to appreciate Lucretius's vision of a universe in which "the systems and their suns shall go back slowly to the eternal drift," in which "nothing abides" and "all things flow . . . until we know and name them." Weary at the end of an era, we may slowly begin to acknowledge that the world is radically ambiguous, "a monster of energy, without beginning or end" (Nietzsche), an "absurd malady" (Camus), a "meaningless sequence of forces" (Henry Adams, to whom I will return), and that it is we ourselves who stabilize the world by calling things good and evil, goods and evils being merely so called. If the knowledge of inescapable ambiguity can liberate--if it can free us to hold and name things, to redesign man and society--it also imposes responsibilities for which nothing in the Myth of Liberalism equips us.

As Americans seek some footing in the face of the contemporary drift, liberalism offers no help. They become fatigued and apprehensive, and this all the more as they sense not merely the end of the ingenious formula of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment but also the void beyond the officials empowered to implement the formula. And without confidence in one's custodians, managers, teachers, parents, judges, or presidents, how can one keep one's balance? What educational system, what discipline and law, what constitution will contain the fluidities of experience and give direction to one's existence?

Certainly the Myth of Liberalism has become hard to fall back on. Unanticipated consequences of the industrial revolution have made its collapse increasingly evident. The eighteenth-century assumption that nature can be counted on to place limits on man's ambition has been undermined by the forces of technology. Rivers, mountains, and deserts no longer pose barriers to human organization as technology has empowered Americans to consolidate their scattered energies. The biosphere of the planet is at the command . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.