I was due to write a long, possibly rambling, post on Vladimir Putin’s comments on liberalism, but the job has been done for me. I loathe the modern philosophies of nominal liberalism and the destructive effect they have had on state and society, but if President Putin thinks I must then fall into his camp, he has not understood the Britons.
As it happens, I need not provide an insightful analysis because Paul Goodman has written a flawless piece on Conservative Home this morning:
- Conservativism is better that liberalism – and Putin much worse than either – by Paul Goodman on Conservative Home
Putin asserts that liberalism has outlived its purpose and is obsolete. That choice of words follows the liberals’ own playbook, by asserting Putin’s philosophy to be ‘on the right side of history’, and he is also playing the old game of portraying the choice of philosophy as one-dimensional; Liberal v Authority.
In fact, there is no ‘right side of history’ and the field is not one-dimensional either. Also ‘liberalism’ is not one entity but a series of propositions, some right, many wrong, and a badge seized upon by anyone with a mad idea they wish to propagate. Therefore opposing the maddest new ideas, or ideas fifty years old, is not to throw yourself into the hands of dictatorship not to abandon liberalism itself (however it might be defined).
Then there is the basic point put by Paul Goodman: it is not just liberalism and authoritianism: there is the Conservative in the mould of the English-speaking world. That is built on the inheritance of freedom which is fundamental to Anglosphere culture: strip modern accretions away from the cultures of continental Europe and you are left with feudal tyranny as the basic norm of life, but strip modernity from the English-speaking peoples and you have the ancient rights of free Englishmen. This makes deep-conservatism so different in the Anglosphere: in Europe it looks back to ancient authority which was tyrannous, while for us it looks back at a time when the state barely interfered in life.
On the basis of opposing western liberalism, Putin is building alliances with European-style conservatives, in Turkey and the old lands of Austria-Hungary. As the only genuine freedom-loving conservative government anywhere in the Anglosphere at the moment is that of the United States, and that is under existential threat from authoritarian liberals, there seems no other alliance to oppose the idiocies of modernist ideologues without jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
- We Need to Talk About Putin: Why the West gets him wrong, and how to get him right, by Mark Galeotti
- Putin: Russia’s Choice by Chris Hutchins