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.
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John Ehrman traces the neoconservatives' shift from cold-war liberalism to conservatism, focusing on the careers and thinking of the most intellectually and politically important members—especially Moynihan, whose political and intellectual careers are here analyzed for the first time. Ehrman shows how the neoconservatives who held office under President Reagan tried to reinforce the administration's anticommunist outlook while also moving it toward a policy of actively assisting foreign governments and groups trying to develop democratic institutions of their own. Ehrman corrects many misconceptions about neoconservatives, illustrates the differences among them, and traces the consistencies in their foreign policy thinking. He also examines their successes and failures in translating their concepts into political action, and analyzes their place in both modern American liberalism and the conservative movement.