Liberalism and Self-GovernmentOct 14, 2022
Classical Liberal thinkers held that we're all born free, equal, and capable of rationality. So how does that square with a British Empire that denied people around the globe their autonomy for centuries?
Many democracies are founded on the ideals of 18th- and 19th-Century British Liberalism: the idea that human beings deserve the right to self-government because we are born free, equal, and capable of rationality. Yet Liberalism was used to justify colonialism, which deprived people around the world of the right to govern themselves. How could a political philosophy that claims to be pro-freedom be used to take freedom away from so many people? Was Liberalism misunderstood, or were its moral flaws built-in from the beginning? How can we design a political philosophy that liberates everyone, not just the citizens of a few wealthy and powerful nations? Josh and Ray talk liberally with Uday Singh Mehta from the CUNY Graduate Center, author of Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought, for an episode generously sponsored by the Stanford Global Studies program.
Josh and Ray open the show with a back and forth debate on the colonialism practiced by the British empire and the United States. Ray points out that the British justified their colonial rule through philosophical liberalism, which appears contradictory given the ideology’s emphasis on rationality, freedom, and self-governance. Josh responds that the problem was not in the ideology itself, but rather their ill practice of it.
The hosts are joined by guest Uday Singh Mehta, a professor of political science at the City University of New York. On the topic of liberalism, Uday argues that political liberalism under the views of Locke and Mill was the most oppressive. According to their view, rationality preceded freedom. Moreover, colonial powers regarded their liberal ideas as universal ones. They oppressed other groups by withholding freedom and attempting to teach them to become rational under their own standards. Other forms of liberalism like economic liberalism, associated with Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and Milton Friedman, paved the way for capitalism as a result of ideas like private property and free trade.
In the last segment of the show, Ray questions if liberalism is a futile ideology, and by extension, if other political ideologies are better alternatives. In response to the latter, Uday envisions a humbler ideology, one that maintains notions of justice and equality but does not speak in terms of power and nations. Following the views of Burke and Gandhi, who were both committed to patience, Uday concludes that time, courage, and preserving culture matters.
Are freedom and equality all we need?
Or do liberal ideals just end up supporting oppression?
How can we make sure that justice is for everybody?
Harold G. Neuman
Friday, September 16, 2022 -- 7:02 AMHere' a salient, I hope,
Here' a salient, I hope, question for this upcoming show: what should be the response when anarchists demand liberty and justice? If liberty and justice is for all, how can the credo square that demand from someone who would just as soon advocate and pursue overthrow of a government, whose founding principles provide for such liberty? This feels like a stretch of democracy, to me.
Sunday, September 18, 2022 -- 1:48 PMSo you can feel democracy
So you can feel democracy when it stretches? If an anarchist tries it on and it's too small so that she/he stretches it out, does that mean whoever it fit in the first place can't wear it afterwards? This question derives from your indication that legitimate limits of democratic social form submit to an aesthetic or pathogenic criteria, so that people shouldn't have any more than they feel like at the time. The argument you've given, which is expressed with exemplary clarity, is that democratic participation can only be tolerated where existing structures of social, economic, and political power are not threatened by it. Similar to the arguments given in defense of limits on free-speech, one detail however remains to be clarified before undertaking an argument in opposition: What is the government, on whose founding principles liberty is provided, which you refer to above? Are you speaking of any one in particular?
Harold G. Neuman
Friday, September 23, 2022 -- 6:38 AMSeems that you stretched the
Seems that you stretched the metaphor. Clever. But, the metaphor was not a question---it was, as provided for here, a comment. Your question was not useful.
Friday, September 23, 2022 -- 3:19 PMBoth or only one? --The one
Both or only one? --The one about your democracy sweater getting too stretched out (continuing the metaphor), or the one about what government you're referring to on whose founding principles liberty is "provided". There's a lot going on there, and no one could be justly blamed for inquiring further into the intricacies of this swirling maelstrom of ideational tempest. Your comment has two parts, the first of which is expressed grammatically as a question:
1) Because one can't rationally exercise one's liberty in the interest of dismantling state or government institutions entrusted to preserve it, (you say "overthrow" which is inconsistent with anarchist theory, since that implies setting up a new state which replaces the old), a question arises as to an "appropriate response" in the event of such behaviors.
2) The second part is in a way more interesting, because it expresses aesthetic criteria for social organization-appropriateness. And a question arises here also: Is there a democratic aesthetics? If collective participation is singled out as an essential component, must one "feel" like she/he is participating in order it to be democratic?
The response I've offered above is bifurcated accordingly:
1)' From the first part the implication is drawn that democracy is acceptable only where it doesn't threaten the existence of the state. And,
2)' is there any one particular state which fits your description of a liberty-protectorate?
Because you've answered neither, it can be safely assumed that the assessment of uselessness applies to both, so that a third must be posed by combining them in an attempt to reduce their uselessness: If one feels actively engaged in democratic processes by organizing around political options whose range is determined by non-democratic forces (e.g. multinational wealth, et al.), then does a democratic aesthetics in that individual case constitute remedial compensation for lacking true democratic form? For your claim seems to indicate that if you can feel like you've got a democracy, then you don't need one. Is that about right?
Wednesday, October 26, 2022 -- 10:42 PMWhom not Who.
Whom not Who.
If he, she, or they could work ==> who
If him, her, or them works ==>whom
Wednesday, November 2, 2022 -- 6:25 PMTo whom is the reference to
To whom is the reference to Who addressed, if not Whom the potential to work is preserved in its actuality without being extinguished? If you want to make a distinction between two things here, you haven't done it. Take for example a case drawn from political expression in the field electoral determination: So-called "ranked choice voting", the proposal for which entails a preservation of citizen-preference over a range of possible outcomes, does not eliminate the work this preference performs, even when the results are not preferred at all in individual cases. Even the negative outcomes retain their determination by active and persisting preferences. In a manner whose mathematical elegance is consistently underestimated, the "could-be-working Who" (e.g. those eliminated prior to a majority tally in single-seat elections) is represented by the "really-working Whom" (the winner in electoral contest). And this can be extended to considerations of any capacity which is not used but could be, and its actual use. Using it does not entail losing it. How then might one defend this apparently untenable distinction? Are you implying that one can not indicate any special capability without seeing it in action, so that for example one could never be sure of a surgeon's medical skills until she/he can be actually observed surgically replacing a damaged internal organ?
Harold G. Neuman
Saturday, December 3, 2022 -- 7:19 AMHello, All:
I have been rummaging around for a couple of months, trying to uncover answers to questions around liberty and justice. Imagine my surprise upon finding that politics is contradictory. This revelation explains a lot, including dogmatic phrases such as American exceptionalism and authoritarian populism. Even, to some extent, the British Empire's justification of colonialism. I regularly consult an older friend who attained a higher level of education than I.
A few more things I have uncovered, or at least deduced:
* authoritarian populism is an embodiment of the economics of a recent political shift, emphasizing utilitarianism. The upshot of this is liberty and justice for a few, which is at bottom what people like JS Mill and Bentham were selling anyway. This is why, in my opinion, the term evaporated in an instant: it just did not sound very American.
* American exceptionalism is a different sort of story. It sounds and smells like old fashioned American-style idealism...justifiable in one sense as was British Colonialism or, maybe, manifest destiny. Some thinkers have had second thoughts about the legitimacy of this, while others, who believe more of what they learned in history class, figure it is just how things are supposed to be.
Contradiction is part of argument...a means of tripping up one's opponent, forcing error and embarrassment...a pride-of-authorship at the debating table.
History classes are selective, depending in part on the political leanings of instructors, and, themselves, introductory seminars on political science. That is all for now.