Liberalisms, dogmatic ideology, and the static notion of "freedom"
The liberalisms of the libertarian spectrum, i.e. ideological varieties that claim freedom to be their main concern, depart from their purported core value by blanking out one of the most conspicuous hallmarks of liberty: the political emancipation of all adult persons, a fundamental condition of liberty which is tantamount to instituting a permanent open debate on the nature and limits, the costs and the benefits of freedom (and, of course, many other vital issues.)
The various liberalisms (mostly sharing the overreaching rationalism found in liberal thinkers from Locke and Kant to Mill) tend to imply a pre-established objective structure of freedom ("freedom as model" or "freedom as blueprint," as I call it in other posts), the correct form of whose components and overall shape being thought amenable to deduction from first principles.
In these rationalistic accounts, freedom takes the form of absolute truth.
One cannot imagine a more radical deviation from the nature of feasible freedom. Thus, these liberalisms turn freedom on her head, defining unfreedom as a lack of correspondence with their parochial models of freedom, which in fact are inadmissibly static in that they ignore the open-ended process by which feasible freedom is ceaselessly redefined and lived anew by all adult members of society. They simply ignore the practical conditions of liberty, especially her democratic dimension and contingent future.
The Role of Politics and the State in the Spontaneous Order of Politics and the State
"Conditions of Liberty" is the title of a book written by Ernest Gellner (1925-1995). which I have been recently mining for insights that might help me to make progress on a present research concern of mine: the role of politics and state in the spontaneous order of a free society.
The hypothesis that guides my quest is that politics is ubiquitous and absolutely pivotal in a free society, where, indeed, I submit, it is necessarily practised even more extensively than in other societies. If capable of corroboration, my presumption implies that liberal thinking misrepresents liberty in crucial ways.
Dissent and Social Cohesion in a Free Society
A defining mark of liberty is the enormous political tension that she precipitates by empowering all citizens to participate in the specification and monitoring of governmental competence and power. Clearly, in this respect, liberty is an aggravating force. The question that interests me, then, is how is the high level of political discord that is inevitable in a free society being offset by other features of freedom so that serious disruption is avoided and sufficient social cohesion maintained to warrant the trilateral merits of liberty: peace, productivity, and personal autonomy? At the present stage of my research, I am ultimately concerned with the specific structure of dissent in a free society. How is dissent organised so as to leave room for the unprecedented attainments of liberty?
In the above paragraph, I have intimated that the opposite of disruption is social cohesion and explicated the latter as a condition for the hallmark attainments of freedom. What then is social cohesion, and what form may it take in a free society?
In this sequel of four consecutive posts, by examining Gellner's "Conditions of Liberty," I hope to address precisely these questions.
Freedom Is Civil Society - Coping with Violence, Sustenance, and Faith
Society may be conceived of in any number of ways. One approach will fruitfully fix its canvass of society on three poles:
- sustenance, and
three inescapable challenges faced by communities of any size and complexity.
The potential for violence is ever present and needs to be dealt with satisfactorily. Human beings need to sustain themselves materially. And men are bound to seek orientation in their environment, human and natural, by certain forms of (leaps of) faith which are inevitable in a universe that leaves us vastly ignorant.
How, then, are these elements marshalled and arranged to achieve social cohesion in the naturally disputatious, conflict-seeking community of free people?
Continued at Violence, Sustenance, and Faith - Civil Society and Social Cohesion - (Ernest Gellner) (2/4), where I examine what Gellner has to say about Violence and Sustenance in Civil Society.