Thursday, March 26, 2020

Liberal Dialectic: Machiavelli to Adam Smith

 Marx to Krapotkin - Freud and Marcuse
Libertarian Centrism - Actual Policy

I still believe in the thesis I shared in 2017 - namely that centrism is a historical necessity stemming from a dialectic between the Left and the Right; and that centrism is intimately related to the spiritual-psychological-emotional growth of people and even God in the context of early modern to contemporary life.  

In the intervening years, I have reaffirmed my emphasis on Rousseau and the idea the synthesis of the liberal dialectic will occur in the the self and its development in conjunction with my rising consciousness thesis.  As I argued in 2017, it may take a great deal of time - possibly 100s of years.

(Early) Modernity and Thesis

[M]odernity was associated with individual subjectivity, scientific explanation and rationalization, a decline in emphasis on religious worldviews, the emergence of bureaucracy, rapid urbanization, the rise of nation-states, and accelerated financial exchange and communication.  There is little consensus as to when modernity began.  Histories of Western Europe suggest that a modern era arrived at the end of colonial invasion and global expansion, which date to the 18th and early 19th centuries.  In general, modernity was exemplified by the period subsequent to the onset of modern warfare, typified by two world wars and succeeded by postmodernism.

        Encyclopedia Britannica

When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always 20 years behind the times.

        Mark Twain

The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. . . . This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left as they were in the liberty of the state of nature.


The rule of King John of England and the Magna Carta (1215) constitute my proposed thesis point with regard to the liberal dialectic.  The following early political scientists or political philosophers buttress these key events.  Machiavelli (1513) envisions a new modern state, which in so many ways at the time was an extension and complication of the monarchy.  The concept of civil society, as theorized most by Hobbes (1651) and Locke (1690), fleshes out the modern state with fundamentally new ideas.  (When I say civil society, I am referring to political innovation beyond the state of nature and not 'third sector' conception of the idea - though they are interrelated.)  Civil society, under my current formulation, is a false antithesis to the liberal dialectic.  It fails to consider the human folly, abusiveness, and corruption of the modern state.  Rousseau obviously points to these very issues.

Modernity and Antithesis

Every man having been born free and master of himself, no one else may under any pretext whatever subject him without his consent.  To assert that the son of a slave is born a slave is to assert that he is not born a man.

In truth, laws are always useful to those with possessions and harmful to those who have nothing; from which it follows that the social state is advantageous to men only when all possess something and none has too much.

Man’s first law is to watch over his own preservation; his first care he owes to himself; and as soon as he reaches the age of reason, he becomes the only judge of the best means to preserve himself; he becomes his own master.

        Rousseau (three separate quotes), The Social Contract

The work of Rousseau (1754) is my proposed antithesis of the liberal dialectic and perhaps the key theorist in 800 years between King John and contemporary life.  He complicates our understanding of civil society and affronts monarchial power as never before.  He is the first modern Western thinker to formally consider  the self as a sovereign.  Be assured: we are still fighting this fight today, as I discussed in part 2 - probably in both the physical realm and the metaphysical.*  As such, we have Locke as the father of liberalism and Rousseau the father of anti-liberalism.**  Once these two forces achieve synthesis, the liberal dialectic will complete itself.  As I have argued and will further refine, this synthesis will depend on the evolution of the self and the question of a rising consciousness.

Double Movement 

Under capitalism, man exploits man. Under communism, it's just the opposite.
        John Kenneth Galbraith

The social history of our time is the result of a double movement: The one is the principle of economic liberalism, aiming at the establishment of a self-regulating market; the other is the principle of social protection aiming at the conservation of man and nature as well as productive organization.


Enter political economy, which is a natural extension of early political philosophy.  Smith (1776) and Ricardo (1817) conceptualize the market.***  As with civil society, the market is another false antithesis to the liberal dialectic because again it fails to consider the human folly, abusiveness, and corruption of - in this case - the market.  Both the market and the state are corollaries to the monarch in that people can leverage the market and the state to become petty monarchs, which effectively constitute the oligarchic system we have today.  

In this sense, we see the birth of the progressive liberal and conservative liberal, as discussed in part 2.  One looks to the state for answers and fails to see corruption there.  The other does the opposite.  Both are needed, as argued in 2017, and prone to their own abuses.  Although Polanyi (1944) came much later, his analysis focused on the late 1700's and earlier 1800's.

Now matters get especially messy.

* In 2019, I further committed myself to greater intellectual freedom.  As an interdisciplinary researcher, I am no longer shying away from metaphysics and its implications on policy and visa-versa.

** I would not attribute the notion of an administrative or bureaucratic anti-liberal state to Rousseau.  The earliest notions of an administrative state come later with the Napoleonic code (1804), which is itself an early date to mark the administrative or bureaucratic state, which is a subject of importance later.

*** In the hindsight of Polanyi (1944), we will now see the market and the state intimately co-develop with the state via his 'double movement' idea. 

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