The Liberal Mind
Publication Year: 2012
Kenneth Minogue offers a brilliant and provocative exploration of liberalism in the Western world today: its roots and its influences, its present state, and its prospects in the new century. The Liberal Mind limns the taxonomy of a way of thinking that constitutes the very consciousness of most people in most Western countries.
While few—especially in America—embrace the description of liberal, still, Minogue argues, most Americans and most Europeans behave as liberals. At least they are the heirs of what Minogue describes as "the triumph of an enlarged, flexible, and pragmatic version of liberalism."
But what, precisely, is liberalism? Or, more accurately, can liberalism be defined precisely? Minogue attempts to answer both questions. "The Liberal Mind attempts to uncover the philosophy of liberalism and lay bare its implications. What is Man? How does he think and feel? What is the place of Reason in human affairs? How should men live? What is politics, and what is it for? These are the questions which liberalism both asks and answers. The answers supply a technique of living, which is a utilitarian moral guide: yet the great advantage claimed for this code is that it is scientific. Because of this claim, liberalism is forced into a series of moral and political evasions, both doctrines and emotional habits of thought. These are dissected in The Liberal Mind."
The past two centuries have been characterized, in the West at least, by "the fury of old ideological battles . . . such as: A planned economy, or free enterprise? Individual thrift, or social services? Free trade, or protection?" These battles have largely been completed—and, many would say, have been won by the champions of, respectively, free enterprise, individual thrift, and free trade.
By examining the larger implications of the concept of liberalism, Minogue offers fresh perspective on the political currents that continue to shape governments and policy in the Western world.
Kenneth Minogue is Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of London.
Published by: Liberty Fund
Title Page, Copyright
Preface to the Liberty Fund Edition
The French thinker Charles Péguy tells us that everything begins in mysticism and ends as politics. This was a way of describing the corruption of power, since by mystique he meant something idealistic which politics vulgarizes. Looking at the evolution of the liberal mind in the twentieth century, I am inclined to turn this idea on its head, but not...
Political issue are ike discarded loves; once out of love with them we can hardly understand what made us so excited. Not so long ago, we were arguing over the issue of a planned economy or free enterprise, and liberals confronted socialists with identities fixed. But the life has gone out of such issues, and political parties find themselves nestling together around the same set of political principles. Some have greeted this development...
The story of liberalism, as liberals tell it, is rather like the legend of St. George and the dragon. After many centuries of hopelesssness and superstition, St. George, in the guise of Rationality, appeared in the world somewhere about the sixteenth century. The first dragons upon whom he turned his lance were those of despotic kingship and religious intolerance. These battles won, he rested a time, until such questions as...
2. The Anatomy of Liberalism
Politics may be explained in many ways, and an important philosophical problem arises from the attempt to relate them. If we wish to explain Hitlerism in Germany, do we look to the childhood and psychological character of those who participated in the movement? To the megalomania of Hitler, the inferiority feelings of Goebbels, the insecurities of the people who lost their savings in the German inflations of the twenties? ...
3. Ethics and Politics
Like many other modern doctrines, liberalism cherishes the hope that one day politics will fade away, and the era of “power-mad politicians” (Lord Russell’s phrase) will come to an end. In Marxist doctrine, this belief is quite explicit: with the coming of communism, the State will wither away, and power over men will give way to power over things. The liberal view is much more oblique. Liberals are rather like ingenious accountants...
4. Moral and Political Evasions
Much of the strength of liberalism as an ideology results from the manner in which it takes over ordinary words and gently inflates them into metaphysical tenets. Sometimes these words go in pairs. “Improvement” for example is a very ordinary and untechnical word which can either be used in its own humble station, or can give support to its more ambitious brother, “progress,” and...
5. Society and Its Variations
If we ask what it is that a Scottish crofter, a London stockbroker, a Welsh steelworker, and a Manchester journalist all have in common, then it is not difficult to give a political answer. They are all British citizens, can travel on British passports, pay taxes to the British State, and can vote in British elections. The political unity of the British State is clear and...
Freedom as a political slogan is an ideal, a goal to be pursued. But an ideal can only be something constructed out of what we have already experienced. In studying freedom, we may, on the one hand, consider it simply as a set of facts about social and political life; or, if our enquiry is ideological, we may seek those of its characteristics which are suitable for erection into criteria. ...
To many of its critics, liberalism is a thin and bloodless rationalism. The list of such critics is extremely varied. It includes many theologians, continental idealists, and artists like D. H. Lawrence whose battle cry is “Life!” In sophisticated conservative circles, it has been criticized as substituting the anonymous and antiseptic new town or suburban...
Page Count: 233
Publication Year: 2012
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