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Author: Ian Cooper

Contemporary Western culture sees itself as broadly liberal, a value framework which has given us democracy, the rule of law, toleration, human rights and a market economy – all things to be grateful for. With the collapse of Communism, there was an air of self-congratulation.  Some spoke of the ‘end of history’, since we in the West had the best system and nothing could improve on it. But then came Islamic terrorism, the financial crash, Brexit and Trump - the rise of populism, and much elite angst. To address this, Patrick Deneen, an American academic at Notre Dame, has written Why Liberalism Failed and it became the basis for one of our lunch discussions. Deneen’s project is interesting, since his thesis has gained traction on both the political left and right, with many agreeing across party lines that there is a crisis afoot.  Deneen first describes how the crisis of liberalism has come to the fore. First, there is the economic insecurity and inequality brought on by globalisation – factory jobs lost to China, for example. Then we see social dislocation brought on by family breakdown and immigration. There is then a need to deal with the consequent distrust in government....

As part of the Understanding the Times series, Ian Cooper reflects on the reality behind the buzz-phrase ‘Cultural Marxism’. In our lunch discussions over recent months, we have been examining the bedrock of ideas and sentiments lying beneath our politically correct, secular culture. This background is often referred to as ‘Cultural Marxism’. Melvin Tinker’s little book, That Hideous Strength, and Roger Smith’s long Themelios article (44.3, 2019), have both been very helpful. Karl Marx was primarily interested in freedom, with equality as its precondition. The thought ran as follows: if others have more than you do, or are in control, you are not fully free. This meant that private property, along with all the institutions which supported it, had to go. These included marriage and the family, which were soon deemed outmoded and repressive structures, perpetuating inequality and bondage. The great hope then was that the progress of history, driven by technology and economics, would deliver true freedom and equality, with a little help from the revolutionaries. Oddly, things did not go according to plan, as Communism took off in ‘backward’, peasant societies like the USSR and China, rather than more advanced industrial ones like the UK and Germany, contradicting the Marxist...