THE BETRAYAL OF LIBERALISM by Hilton Kramer

THE BETRAYAL OF LIBERALISM

How the Disciples of Freedom and Equality Helped Foster the Illiberal Politics of Coercion and Control
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KIRKUS REVIEW

paper 1-56663-258-7 Ideologues refighting a familiar battle. To find anything of value in this volume you must begin by ignoring its basic premise. Kramer and Kimball, editor and managing editor, respectively, of The New Criterion, are out to unveil “liberalism’s betrayal of its own vaunted values and goals.” They argue that in pursuing equality, liberalism has sacrificed its core value, freedom, thereby producing a discrepancy between liberal institutions/policies and liberal principles. But the relationship between freedom and equality has been explored many times with more subtlety and insight than here. Fortunately, the volume’s contributors mostly address other issues, sharing only the editors’ strange notion that “liberalism” is some threatening entity that, quite apart from any specific principles, has infected much of our society. Apparently the invidiousness of liberalism stems in part from its ability to assume multiple, even contradictory guises. Contrast, for example, Elshtain’s argument that a rigid liberal insistence on tolerance is not necessarily a neutral stance when applied to religious beliefs with Silber’s mostly autobiographical essay urging that liberalism implies only a commitment to rational procedures, or Windschuttle’s excoriation of liberal anti-imperialism in Britain with Kagan’s concern that a liberal embrace of manifest destiny promotes an overly aggressive and expansive American foreign policy. Is it possible that these authors read each other’s essays and reflected even for a moment on the advisability of grouping their arguments together as if they were attacking the same thing? In fact, several of the essays, especially those by Elshtain and Kagan, and O’Sullivan’s examination of the moral consequences of impatience, are genuinely provocative, but it would be easier to take them seriously if they were not packaged together in an assault on the decadence of liberalism. It’s hard to get excited about essays presented as such relentless polemic.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1999
ISBN: 1-56663-257-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1999




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