Living in the End Times


[Page 36]

The Utopia far a Race of Devils

This, finally, brings us to the core of the liberal utopia. For liberalism, at least in its radical form, the wish to submit people to an ethical ideal held to be universal is «the crime which contains all crimes,» the mother of all crimes — it amounts to the brutal imposition of one’s own view onto others, the cause of civil disorder. Which is why, if one wants to establish civil peace and tolerance, the first condition is to get rid of «moral temptation»: politics should be thoroughly purged of moral ideals and rendered «realistic,» taking people as they are, counting on their true nature, not on moral exhortations. Here the market is exemplary: human nature is egotistic, there is no way to change it – what is needed is a mechanism that makes private vices work for the common good (the «Cunning of Reason»). In his «Perpetual Peace» essay, Kant provided a precise formulation of this key feature….

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[page 37]

Today, the meaning of «liberalism» moves between two opposed poles: economic liberalism (free market individualism, opposition to strong state regulation, etc.) and political liberalism (with an accent on equality, social solidarity, permissiveness, etc.). In the US, Republicans are more liberal in the first sense and Democrats in the second. The point, of course, is that while one cannot decide through closer analysis which is the «true» liberalism, one also cannot resolve the deadlock by proposing a kind of»higher» dialectical synthesis, or «avoid the confusion» by making a clear distinction between the two senses of the term. The tension between the two meanings is inherent to the very content that «liberalism» endeavors to designate, it is constitutive of the notion itself, so that this ambiguity, far from signaling a limitation of our knowledge. signals the innermost truth» of the notion of liberalism.

Traditionally, each basic form of liberalism necessarily appears as the opposite of the other: liberal multiculturalist advocates of tolerance as a rule resist economic liberalism and try to protect the vulnerable from unencumbered market forces, while market liberals as a rule advocate conservative family values, and so on. We thus get the double paradox of the traditionalist Rightist supporting the market economy while ferociously rejecting the culture and mores that economy engenders, and his counterpoint, the multiculturalist Leftist, resisting the market (though less and less so, it is true, as Michea notices) while enthusiastically enforcing the ideology it engenders. (Half a century ago, the symptomatic exception was the unique Ayn Rand, who advocated both market liberalism and a full individualist egotism deprived of all traditional forms of morality concerning family values and sacrifice for the common good.) Today, however, we seem to be entering a new era in which it is possible for both aspects to be combined: figures such as Bil Gates, for instance, pose as market radicals and as multiculturalist humanitarians.

Here, we encounter the basic paradox of liberalism. An anti-ideological and anti-utopian stance is inscribed into the very core of the liberal vision: liberalism conceives itself as a «politics of the lesser evil,» its ambition is to bring about the «least worst society possible,» thus preventing a greater evil, since it considers any attempt to directly impose a positive good as the ultimate source of al evil. Churchil’s quip about democracy being the worst of all political systems, with the exception of all the others, holds even better for liberalism. Such a view is sustained by a profound pessimism about human nature: man is a selfish and envious animal, and if one attempts to build a political system appealing to his goodness and altruism, the result will be the worst kind of terror (both the Jacobins and the Stalinists presupposed human virtue). [40] However, the liberal critique ofthe «tyranny of the Good» comes at a price: the more its program permeates society, the more it turns into its opposite. The claim to want nothing but the lesser evil, once asserted as the principle of the new global order, gradually replicates the very features of the enemy it claims to be fighting against. The global liberal order clearly presents itself as the best of all possible worlds; its modest rejection of utopias ends with the imposition of its own market-liberal utopia which will supposedly become reality when we subject ourselves fully to the mechanisms of the market and universal human rights. Behind all this lurks the ultimate totalitarian nightmare, the vision of a New Man who has left behind all the old ideological baggage. As every close observer of the deadlocks arising from political correctness knows, the separation of legal justice from moral Goodness —which should be relativized and historicized— ends up in an oppressive moralism brimming with resentment. Without any «organic » social substance grounding the standards of what Orwell approvingly referred to as «common decency» (all such standards having been dismissed as subordinating individual freedoms to proto-Fascist social forms), the minimalist program of laws intended to prevent individuals from encroaching upon one another (annoying or «harassing each other») turns into an explosion of legal and moral rules, an endless process (a «spurious infinity» in Hegel‘s sense) of legalization and moralization, known as «the fight against all forms of discrimination.» If there are no shared mores in place to influence the law, only the basic fact of subjects «harassing» other subjects, who – in the absence of such mores — is to decide what counts as «harassment»? In France, there are associations for obese people demanding that all public campaigns against obesity and in favor of healthy eating habits be stopped, since they damage the self-esteem of obese persons. The militants of Veggie Pride condemn the «speciesism» of meat-eaters (who discriminate against animals, privileging the human animal —for them, a particularly disgusting form of «fascism») and demand that «vegeto-phobia»should be treated as a kind of xenophobia and proclaimed a crime. And we could extend the list to include those fighting for the right to incest-marriage, consensual murder,  cannibalism . . .

The problem here is the obvious arbitrariness of the ever-new rules. Take child sexuality, for example: one could argue that its criminalization is an unwarranted discrimination, but one could also argue that children should be protected from sexual molestation by adults. And we could go on: the same people who advocate the legalization of soft drugs usually support the prohibition of smoking in public places; the same people who protest the patriarchal abuse of small children in our societies worry when someone condemns members of certain minority cultures for doing exactly this (say, the Roma preventing their children from attending public schools), claiming that this is a case of meddling with other «ways of life.» It is thus for necessary structural reasons that the «fight against discrimination» is an endless process which interminably postpones its final point: namely a society freed of all moral prejudices which, as Michéa puts it, «would be on this very account a society condemned to see crimes everywhere.»

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[40] The standard liberal-conservative argument against Communism is that since it wants to impose on reality an impossible utopian dream, it necessarily ends in deadly terror. What, however, if one should nonetheless insist on taking the risk of enforcing the Impossible onto reality? Even if, in this way, we do not get what we wanted and/or expected, we nonetheless change the coordinates of what appears as «possible» and give birth to something genuinely new.

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