The Dismantling of Humanistic liberalism?

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It must be difficult for both journalists and academics to describe  and explain what has happened in the world over the past 6 months. Two of the bastions of liberalism, the United Kingdom and the USA have both radically changed their political direction. Brexit and the election of Donald Trump were not just unexpected because  of a miscalculation of the values of a number of variables. These events were unexpected because a number of variables suddenly became irrelevant and a number of new variables seemingly appeared on our horizons. One of the variables which almost overnight  seemed to become irrelevant, and which had become part of the framework of political expectations in all developed nations since the Age of the Enlightenment, was that of Globalization. Whether it be the global exchange of ideas or of goods and services no expert  or group of experts could have foreseen that these processes would be displaced by populist slogans such as “Make America Great again ” or “Let us take control of our country again” which in their turn led people to  vote for the least likely of a pair of alternatives. The analysis of the reasons for our modern predicament by journalists and the more popularly inclined academics who appear constantly in our media  refer to  an interesting number of factors which possibly could help to describe exactly what has happened, but no systematic attempt has yet been made to explain the phenomena which have recently presented themselves. The ground swell of attitudes and opinions that were leading us toward Globalization, or what Kant referred to as Cosmopolitanism, suddenly were affected by the two seismic events referred to above  and the whole Project of the Enlightenment, namely the moral progress of the world appears to have been stopped in its course. The two world wars and the cold war of the last “terrible century”(Hannah Arendt) failed to permanently alter the agenda of the Enlightenment. Since then we have had over 70 years of Kantian progress which included the formation of the United Nations and the European Union. Humanistic liberalism seemed to have triumphed and the hundred thousand year journey which Kant predicted appeared to be much closer to fulfillment than expected. I do not believe that the phenomena of Brexit and Trump defy analysis  but I do believe that we do not as yet have an analysis of why what happened, happened. The academic and political project of humanistic liberalism has suffered a setback. Some have claimed that  this project is in the process of being dismantled. If this is the case one can well wonder whether this century is merely going to be a continuation in spirit of the previous century.

Michael James