The Crisis of Liberalism

By Prabhat Patnaik in IDEAs (originally People’s Democracy) 13 May 2024

Each strand of political praxis is informed by a political philosophy which analyses the world around us, especially, in modern times, its economic characteristics. On the basis of this analysis, the particular political philosophy sets out the objectives which have to be struggled for, and the political praxis informed by it carries out this struggle. The objective may be difficult to achieve, more difficult in certain contexts than in others, and this difficulty may act as a hurdle for political praxis; but this does not constitute a crisis for that political philosophy. The sheer difficulty of achieving an objective does not constitute a crisis. A crisis of a political philosophy arises when it has an internal contradiction, when the objective it puts forward is logically in conflict with some other feature in which it believes.

Many would argue that the objective of socialism that the political philosophy, Marxism, puts forward, has in the present context become somewhat more difficult to achieve; but this, while explaining the present weakening of the Left, does not constitute any crisis for Marxism. The political philosophy called liberalism however is facing a crisis in the sense that the objective it puts forward for the achievement of what it perceives as human freedom is logically impossible to achieve in a world which liberalism itself holds dear; in other words there is a logical contradiction within itself which has arisen in the course of the development of the economy and to which it has no answer. The crisis that liberalism faces is of this nature.



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