Cover image for The anatomy of antiliberalism
The anatomy of antiliberalism
Holmes, Stephen, 1948-
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Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1993.
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xvi, 330 p. ; 25 cm.
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Book BILKUTUP0139190 HM276 .H744 1993 Central Campus Library

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Liberal: spoken in a certain tone, heard more and more often lately, it summons up permissiveness, materialism, rootlessness, skepticism, relativism run rampant. How has liberalism, the grand democratic ideal, come to be a dirty word? This hook shows us what antiliberalism means in the modern world--where it comes from, whom it serves, and why it speaks with such a forceful, if everchanging, voice. In the past, in a battle pitting one offspring of eighteenth-century rationalism against another, Marxism has been liberalism's best known and most vociferous opponent. But with the fall of communism, the voices of ethnic particularism, communitarianism, and religious fundamentalism--a tradition Holmes traces to Joseph de Maistre--have become louder in rejection of the Enlightenment, failing to distinguish between the descendants of Karl Marx and Adam Smith. Stephen Holmes uses the tools of the political theorist and the intellectual historian to expose the philosophical underpinnings of antiliberalism in its nonmarxist guise. Examining the works of some of liberalism's severest critics--including Maistre, Carl Schmitt, Leo Strauss, and Alasdair Maclntyre--Holmes provides, in effect, a reader's guide to antiliberal culture, in all its colorful and often seductive, however nefarious, variety. As much a mindset as a theory, as much a sensibility as an argument, antiliberalism appears here in its diverse efforts to pit "spiritual truths" and "communal bonds" against a perceived cultural decay and moral disintegration. This corrosion of the social fabric--rather than the separation of powers, competitive elections, a free press, religious tolerance, public budgets, and judicial controls on the police--is what the antiliberal forces see as the core of liberal politics. Against this picture, Holmes outlines the classical liberal arguments most often misrepresented by the enemies of liberalism and most essential to the future of democracy. Constructive as well as critical, this book helps us see what liberalism is and must be, and why it must and always will engender deep misgivings along with passionate commitment.

Table of Contents

Introduction: What is Antiliberalism?
Part 1 The Antiliberals
Maistre and the Antiliberal Tradition
Schmitt: The Debility of Liberalism
Strauss: Truths for Philosophers Alone
Maclntyre: The Antiliberal Catechism
Anti-Prometheanism: The Case of Christopher Lasch
Unger: Antiliberalism Unbound
The Community Trap
Part 2 Misunderstanding the Liberal Past
Antiliberals as Historians of Liberal Thought
The "Atomization" of Society?
Indifference toward the Common Good?
The Eclipse of Authority?
The Public Realm Sacrificed to the Private?
The Selfishness of Rights?
Moral Skepticism?
The Crimes of Reason?
Antonym Substitution