The Collapse of Liberal Empire: Science and Revolution in the Twentieth Century

The Collapse of Liberal Empire: Science and Revolution in the Twentieth Century

The Collapse of Liberal Empire: Science and Revolution in the Twentieth Century

The Collapse of Liberal Empire: Science and Revolution in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

By assumption, attitude, and ideological reflex, Americans are liberals. They are liberals in opposition to democracy, as they are liberals in opposition to conservatism. This is historically true of Americans, however the politically shrewd, and politically ignorant, employment of "conservative," "liberal," and "democratic" vaporizes these terms beyond recognition and coherence. The despair and lost sense of direction which currently pervade the American order are not the travails of a democratic polity, but manifestations of a liberal logic unfolding, a liberal nation in reaction to the feudal and, perhaps, dynastic actualities of a corporate and technological era, and to the egalitarian demands which these inadvertently produce. They are symptomatic of the contradictions which emanate from an interwoven commitment to material productivity and the primacy of the individual. They represent the inherent dialectic of a liberal people turned upon themselves.

Confusing liberalism with democracy, separating politics from economics and technology, Americans fail to come to grips with a condition they cannot and, indeed, refuse to understand. Yet only by facing its controlling truths will political America begin to discover a rationality which now eludes--to perceive as prelude to reasonable action. To confront the problems of America, the ardent advocates of the "liberal" persuasion, and its equally ardent "detractors," must probe the essential core of what liberalism is ultimately about. The failure to do so produces a systemic anguish and confusion, within which the nation appears in flux, cut loose from its traditional moorings; wherein established expectations are scattered by forces beyond restraint and even beyond identity; a country wherein no one seems to know what anyone else is talking about. Here is the crisis of the American order, a crisis of a liberalism which must come to terms with its abiding . . .

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