The title of Marshall’s article, “Progressives have sacrificed liberalism”, gives one the false impression that this is purely a pugilistic piece pointed at an imprecisely defined progressivism. This notion is wrong on three counts:
first, the argument is positive and constructive as well as apologetic
second, insofar as the author’s aim is pugilistic (which it undoubtedly is), he targets three rival ideologies: not only progressivism but post-liberalism and libertarianism. (In fact, he takes aim at a further philosophy which lies behind progressivism and libertarianism: the 18th century so-called Enlightenment).
And third, on progressivism, the author carefully defines this creed as the conceit that humankind’s moral and epistemological progress is “on a perpetual upward curve in parallel with technological progress”.
The author’s main contention, in many ways complementary to John Gray’s Two Faces of Liberalism, is that classical liberalism has “lost its moorings”. More specifically (and unlike Gray), he contends that classical liberalism has lost its deep Christian (more particularly still its Protestant) faith revealed in an assumed anthropology (a shared understanding of human nature wherein we possess inherent dignity but are also fallen creatures), a common epistemology (theory of human knowledge where, because of our fallenness we empirically test our hypotheses), and ethics, wherein we pursue virtue and good in light of God’s decrees.
In the second episode of Politics of the Cross+Roads, I spoke with the writer Mary Harrington. Mary is a columnist for Unherd and her work has appeared in, among other places, the Spectator, the Plough, the Conservative Woman and SDPTalk. Mary’s writing has had a big influence on my own thinking around liberal individualism, freedom of speech and the need for reconstruction in the late-modern west.
Mary spoke a great deal in our conversation about her experience of motherhood and how this has shaped her politics. Mary also discussed limits and progress, how humans are inherently religious creatures and how her local church community roots her in something bigger than herself. I hope that you enjoy listening.
You can also listen to a shortened version of this on iTunes here or in its entirety here.
Giles covered a lot of ground in our conversation. For those wanting to listen, here is the full and unedited version of our conversation. You can find a shorter version of our discussion on the iTunes page. Enjoy!
Today I had the great pleasure of welcoming our first guest to Politics at the Cross+Roads, Rev Canon Dr Giles Fraser. Giles will be well known to many listeners as a journalist with Unherd (and previously with the Guardian). Giles is a priest and canon in the Church of England and he regularly contributes to Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and the Moral Maze.We had an absolutely fascinating discussion about how he sees the relationship between socialism and conservatism, about whether the pandemic is a post liberal moment and how the Church roots us in community, warts and all.
For Giles’ new book, Chosen: Lost and Found Between Christianity and Judaism (Penguin, 2021), see https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/213/213476/chosen/9780241003268.html
For Giles’ post liberal reading list, see https://unherd.com/2019/11/a-post-liberal-reading-list/
On churches and the pandemic, see Giles’ thoughts here https://twitter.com/giles_fraser/status/1354091428092268545, https://unherd.com/2020/12/why-i-wont-be-closing-my-church-this-christmas/ and https://unherd.com/2020/11/boris-johnson-doesnt-get-god/
For Giles’ discussion of Jesus as a somewhere and Paul as an anywhere, see https://unherd.com/2018/08/jesus-somewhere-paul-anywhere/
On postliberalism and the Magnificent Seven, see https://unherd.com/2020/04/the-magnificent-seven-is-a-post-liberal-idyll/
In this first video in the Politics at the Cross+Roads series, Giles Fraser talks about how he sees the relationship between socialism and conservatism, about whether the pandemic is a post liberal moment and how the local church roots us in a place and in community.
You can also listen to this episode in shorter form here or in its entirety over on iTunes here.
I’m putting together a podcast called Politics at the Cross+Roads. As the name suggests, the podcast sits at the intersection or the crossroads of Christian faith and political conviction. In Politics at the Cross+Roads, I interview interesting Christians in the public square about where they are politically and how their faith helped them get there.
This a new series which features conversations with prominent public figures who are Christians and who also openly discuss their political convictions.
So, in the weeks and months to come, join me as I speak with well-known, thinking Christians from across the political spectrum,looking at why they’ve come to the positions they have and how their faith has helped them get there.
Together, we’ll explore such questions as, how do your political convictions and your faith interact? When has your Christianity come into conflict with your politics? And what does the Christian faith have to say to the political tradition you inhabitand what does the political tradition you inhabit have to say to your faith?
So keep an eye out on the blog (www.thesaeculum.com) under the Politics at the Cross+Roads section, as well as the blog’s YouTube channel and on iTunes for audio and video conversations with well-known guests over the next few months.
With a Summer and Autumn of cultural upheaval in the Anglosphere (as a result of Covid, fiery protests of various sorts, Brexit debates and, now, an ongoing US election that will perpetuate the liberal order, whether economically with Trump or socially and economically with Biden), there’s certainly appetite for considering fresh ideas that might take us forward with the crucial task of re-constructing community and society.
It’s just as well, then, that the UK think-tank ResPublica have recently produced two instructive seminars on post-liberalism, that political philosophy which, in broad terms, advocates moving to the left on the economy, to the right on culture and identity and to the local and particular in governance. Identifying the overarching assumption of liberalism as unmitigated autonomy—the human person unmoored form ties to person or place—post-liberals seek to offer a positive vision that prioritises relationships, community and belonging in our cultural, economic and social life.
I’ve been a Rush fan since I was about 15 years old when my friend introduced me to “The Spirit of Radio” and then “La Villa Strangiato”. The combination of sheer musical technicality, thoughtful lyrics and free-thinking nerdiness spoke to me as a lonely and introverted teenager living in a foreign country (our family had moved from Belfast to Chicago). “Subdivisions” was particularly close to my heart with its message of non-conformity (“be cool or be cast out”) playing out in the halls of my formidable high school.