James Kalb: The Tyranny of Liberalism

Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command

Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2008     Amazon
Book Description:
KalbWhen it comes to liberalism, the usual story in postwar America is one of decline, accompanied by the subplot of conservatism’s ascendance. But take a longer view – look beyond and below politics – and it is the unchallenged triumph of liberalism and its philosophical assumptions that ought to command our attention.
The triumph of liberalism means the tyranny of liberalism, explains James Kalb in this illuminating book, for liberalism is the extension into the sociopolitical realm of modern scientific thought and technological rationality. These modes of thinking are regarded by nearly everyone today as uniquely authoritative; those institutions and beliefs which do not conform are regarded at best as annoyances, and at worst as evil. Furthermore, Kalb shows how liberalism is an expression of the interests and outlook of commercial and managerial elites, who are suspicious of less rationalized and controllable forms of social organization like the family.
Kalb does not merely rehearse a tale of woe, nor is he content simply to analyze the current situation. With reference to concrete issues such as the debate surrounding same-sex marriage, he outlines the kind of traditionalist response to liberalism that is likely to be most effective. He argues that traditional, decentralized, and nonliberal forms of social organization are ultimately impossible to eradicate, and he shows how more human forms of association than those favored by liberalism might once again be brought into being.
Reviews:
“The title of this book may seem oxymoronic, which testifies to how completely the regime of freedom and equality that liberalism claims to be has triumphed over other sociopolitical ideas. But the equal freedom liberalism has brought is essentially the right to shop among goods, services, and ‘lifestyles.’ The right to care about anything – family, neighborhood, church, heritage, and the truths about human nature and existence they express – except the economic-political regime, however, has shriveled under the onslaught of unelected management. Religion is judicially quarantined and separated from citizenship, state agencies assume familial functions, careerism undermines community, education becomes more vocational and less humane, and obligatory tolerance truncates public conversation. Meanwhile, epidemic psychological depression, uncontainable crime, endless warfare, and ever-increasing concentration of wealth indicate that liberalism’s consumer paradise is far from perfect – indeed, will and must collapse. Without any specialist jargon, reams of statistics, or heavy-handed anecdotes, Kalb makes us see how all the ills of liberalism logically proceed from its deliberate philosophical poverty. Preparatory to liberalism’s demise, he suggests adopting a traditionalist outlook and resuming the loyalties and the functions liberal hegemony has tried so hard to suppress and usurp. Slow reading, perhaps, but vital and vitalizing.”  Ray Olson, Booklist
“An outstanding contribution to political philosophy…Those in search of a revitalized American conservatism will find The Tyranny of Liberalism essential reading.”  David Gordon, The American Conservative
“James Kalb’s new book is distinguished by remarkable comprehensiveness and a refreshing freedom from rancor. It is an excellent resource…and those steeped in it will commend Kalb’s clarity.”  Stefan McDaniel, First Things
“The roots, reach, and results of liberalism are inspected with consummate precision…His clarifying, commanding work…presents bottom-up solutions for the restoration of a noble, humane society.”  Mary McWay Seaman, New Oxford Review
“The work of an imaginative conservative who offers frank criticism and expresses the truth about authentic values and the permanent things with notable clarity, unusual insight, and welcome eloquence.”  Carl Olson, Catholic World Report
“[It] falls into the genre of resistance literature…This wide-ranging, ambitious, lawyerly brief against the regnant liberal consensus in America is powerful and effective because of its spirit of urgent dismay.”  R.R. Reno, Intercollegiate Review
About the Author:
James Kalb, who holds degrees from Dartmouth College and Yale University, is a lawyer and independent scholar whose reviews and essays on political thought have appeared in various journals in the United States and Europe, including Modern Age and Telos. Kalb blogs, lives, and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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