Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Liberalism

The Republican Model and the Crisis of National Liberalism

I’ve published a piece in Cosmos + Taxis about some of the tensions between nationalism and liberalism. Cosmos + Taxis‘ readership skews libertarian, and many of its readers are frustrated with the constraints nationalism imposes upon liberalism. There’s a lot of right libertarian interest in republicanism and federalism. I make the case that republicanism can only compete with nationalism insofar as republics offer citizens more extensive sets of rights–including economic rights–than they can have through nationalism. In this way, I pitch the libertarians on adopting more conventionally left-wing economic positions. It’s a sincere effort to make an argument that might be appealing to someone with a rather different set of starting points from my own. You can read the whole thing here.

On the State of the Left in 2022

This past weekend, I did a couple panels for the Platypus Society at the University of Chicago and Northwestern. These included two prepared ten-minute talks. The talks focus on the relationship between Marxism and liberalism, and on the degree to which the Millennial Left is and was Marxist. The scripts for those two talks are below. If you watched the panels live (or on YouTube), I did ad-lib a bit in places. This is not a transcript.

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Liberalism’s War on the Internet

Over the past few weeks, the occupation of the capitol building by pro-Trump demonstrators has legitimated a raft of security measures. The War on Terror is now the War on the Internet. In the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, liberalism has become aware of the danger posed to it by the internet. On the internet, discourse proliferates rapidly, in an uncontrolled and unmediated way. Many web users begin to develop positions which are incompatible with liberal pluralism, which paint their political opponents as enemies who must be comprehensively destroyed. During the 90s, 00s, and early 10s, the internet was not treated seriously by liberal theory. The triumph of the populists in the mid-10s forced liberalism to reckon with it. Now liberalism is trying to change the internet into something compatible with liberalism.

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The Ungoverned Globe

I have a new piece out at Aeon on the liberal international order, its inadequacies, and the difficulties with replacing it. You can read it here:

Liberal Hypocrisies and the Alternatives to Them

All social orders are supported by “legitimation stories”. These are the reasons orders give us to support them, or at least to stay out of their way. Legitimation stories don’t have to be true, but they have to be persuasive. The social order has to create a set of conditions that are similar enough to the stories that we mistake what we have for what we were promised. Legitimation stories are chiefly about “good order”. Order is straightforward–social orders promise to protect us from violence, starvation, instability, and precarity. They promise to make us feel secure. “Good” is less obvious, because “good” tends to mean different things to different people in different contexts. Liberal legitimation stories understand “good” in three senses:

  1. A good order is one in which the subjects of the order are “free” or have “liberty” in some relevant sense.
  2. A good order is one in which the subjects of the order are treated as “equal” to one another in some relevant sense.
  3. A good order is one in which the order “represents” the subjects in some relevant way.
  4. A good order is “dynamic”, it is capable of delivering real change.

The trouble is that terms like “free”, “equal”, and “representative” don’t have stable social meanings. Our understandings of these terms can easily slide out of alignment with the understandings we need to have for legitimation stories to work. If we understand “equality” to mean “a fair distribution of resources” but the liberal order wants us to understand “equality” as “everyone gets to have their say”, the order has to convince us that we’ve misunderstood the meaning of equality. It has to get us to think about it in a whole different way. When gaps open up between the conditions the order produces and our expectations, it is often because the order has lost control over how we understand the words it uses to tell its stories. When this happens, the order appears “hypocritical”–it appears to say one thing and do another, to tell stories it has no intention of realising. That’s what today’s post is about–the liberal order’s hypocrisies.

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