For the past six or seven years, since Brexit happened in the UK and Donald Trump was voted the 45th US president, the far-Left (the Woke), which for decades has built its presence in universities, the entertainment industry, mass media, the Left-wing political parties and more recently in corporate boards, has pushed a momentous propaganda that the Nazis were on the rise: Nazis voted for Brexit, Nazis voted for Trump, Nazis here, Nazis there, Nazis everywhere.
This hysteria was, of course, a total sham – one only had to stop watching CNN or, at times, BBC, or any “red liberal” outlet to realise this. More so, ironically, the Woke are closer to the Nazis then they want to admit (due to the race supremacy element baked into the post-Derreck Bell critical race theory ideas and practice that the Woke is pushing and defending with double-speak: “critical theory is as critical theory does”.).
The Woke however has managed to provoke a response on the Right, and a pretty bad one: the far Right is gathering its forces – ideologically speaking for now. The Woke are totalitarian in nature: as I covered in great detail in my essay – Creating the “New Man”: Marxist Re-education under Communism and in the West – the current incarnation of the far-Left, similarly to its ancestor – the communists – wants to reshape the psychology of man to ensure that we all develop what they call a “critical consciousness” (in the past this was called a “socialist consciousness” that only the “socialist man”, the “new man”, possessed and only this “socialist man” could believe in the utopia of communism) which enables the “new man” to be a zealous activist for far-Left ideological and political purposes. For a growing library of resources on the socialism, communism and Marxism, click below and scroll at the bottom where I am collecting websites, books, podcasts and more on the subject.
The above developments have, as expected, caused a radical response in one particular group of intellectuals on the Right called Neo-integralism or Post-liberalism. These are not traditional conservatives (like Roger Scruton or Thomas Sowell), but thinkers who, using mostly legitimate criticisms of the Left, including of liberalism itself, want to shape the world through an authoritarian agenda. At least this is what I have read so far.
There are, of course, similarities with the radical Left: the Woke (neo-communists) want more centralised power and are pro-internationalisation and globalisation vs. the Neo-integralists are for a world state under the control of the church (as an institution – important to mention as we shall see later why). Some on the Woke are racist (critical race theory and antisemites), some Neo-integralists are also racist (antisemites). The Woke hate the West (xenophobic, which comes from hating themselves) while some Neo-integralists detest other peoples (xenophobic too).
The more we look at these two extreme ideologies, the more we see links between them. I have done this assessment regarding Hitler and Stalin in January this year, showing plenty of common elements between national socialists and international socialists. You can read it here. In the end, what both of these extremes want is the same: absolute power; see below:
What I aim to do is to highlight some of the core beliefs and arguments of the Post-Liberals and also to explore why they may be appealing. This is an introductory piece, however. I intend to write more on this subject later on.
Who are the Post-Liberals or Neo-Integralists?
The Post-Liberals or Neo-Integralists derive their name from a book written by Patrick Deneen in 2017 called Why Liberalism Failed. One does not need to read the book to understand why liberalism has failed; just go to any Western nation and look around: lack of tradition, cultural decay, weak leadership, weaponised emotions, dominance of radical Left-wing views in key institutions like the academia or mass media, absence of spirituality, a crisis of meaning and so on. The book itself got a review from President Barack Obama:
“Why Liberalism Failed offers cogent insights into the loss of meaning and community that many in the West feel, issues that liberal democracies ignore at their own peril.”
One of the core arguments of the book is that liberalism is built on a series of contradictions that eventually lead those who pursue this philosophy and use it to build governments and shape societies according to it to achieve the exact opposite of their intended outcome.
For example, in pursuing equal rights the liberal view makes use of discrimination or in stating that it values the individual the liberal view allows the state to grow to any extent to “protect” the individual and so on. As such, “liberalism becomes daily more visible precisely because its deformations are becoming too obvious to ignore,” Deneen writes. To extract part of a great review of Deneen’s book:
“Liberalism claims to free people from “artificial” bonds imposed by cultures and distinct local communities that have been deemed oppressive if they infringe on the ability to the Self to do as it wills. […]
Under liberalism, people can and should do what they “want,” and should also not be trained in what it is best to “want,” which would again be a form of artifice and oppression. As long as people meet the narrow requirement of not breaking the law or causing immediate physical harm to others, they are free to do as they wish. […]
Liberal economics and ideology eviscerates local culture and economy, right down to the family level. The resulting chaos in turn generates the need for a replacement for those intermediate institutions, which ends up being the state itself. Instead of relying on taught social norms to regulate and minimize such ills as violent crime and avarice, the liberal state, which is opposed to moulding people’s character in any particular direction, ends up filling the gap with punitive surveillance and carceral policies for those unguided people who end up breaking the law.”
The book itself can also be viewed as a radical Right-wing critique of the Enlightenment. A Left-wing critique was given by the neo-Marxists of the Frankfurt School in Dialectic of Enlightenment. These are not the first, nor the most balanced critiques of the liberal project, which itself derived from the Enlightenment. A more balanced criticism comes from Kenneth Minogue. In The Liberal Mind, Kenneth Minogue argued (roughly sixty years ago) that the American Liberals of his age were no longer similar to the original classic liberals.
Going back to its origins, liberalism was “tolerant, egalitarian, and peace-loving; liberals exercise great self-control and excel in compromise. For Minogue, this was a political system that unleashed previously repressed individual energy and allowed for responsible political opposition, which led to prosperity and stability,” writes Habi Zhang for Law & Liberty.
The Liberals of Minogue’s day, who have morphed in many cases in today’s neo-communists with a racist bent (the Woke), displayed two major characteristics which we see today manifesting on steroids: “Cynicism and sentimentality are the trademarks of the modern liberal mind.” It is not at all uncommon to hear liberal elites – commentators, rich artists, politicians and well-paid academics – entertain mildly misanthropic views, a nihilistic attitude towards life, combined with hedonism and a shallowness that results in weak leadership.
Therefore, the Post-Liberals come as reaction, on the Right, to this set of issues, attitudes and beliefs. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. In a must-read essay for Acton Institute, James Patterson writes:
“Post-liberal ideas have their origin in the Catholic reactionary thought of continental Europeans […] Post-liberalism is part of a broader group of ideological outcasts that have begun to coalesce into a kind of conservative countermovement to the older, more traditional conservativism—a countermovement called “National Conservatism”.”
One of the key figures of “National Conservatism” is Fr. Charles Coughlin, a supporter of the Democratic Party and an antisemite. Coughlin supported “the Democratic candidacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and, after FDR’s victory, became a cheerleader for the New Deal”. But FDR did not want to affiliate himself with Coughlin as the priest used his influential radio show – The Hour of Power – to spread antisemitic messages, blaming the Jews for the Great Depression.
“It was not until 1942, after America had already entered the Second World War, that Coughlin finally broadcast a message demanding America not enter the war, as the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, were the result of a Jewish plot. That message violated the 1917 Espionage Act, giving the federal government cause to shut his media operation down for good.”
Patterson stresses that Coughlin is not the only controversial figure in this set of thinkers. Alongside him, and contemporary with us, we should mention the following thinkers that helped birth and shape “National Conservativism”: Adrian Vermeule (law professor at Harvard) who “has endorsed a kind of “world government” under a Vatican-approved state”, Chad Pecknold (Catholic University of America) who is quite critical of “ideas of natural rights and human dignity” and author Sohrab Ahmari who, in an op-ed in the New York Times (that red liberal newspaper…) argued alongside two other writers that Xi Jinping’s China is “as a civilizational equal despite its handling of religious minorities, and advocated a “hands-off” foreign-policy position”; indeed Ahmari and Vermeule, highlights Patterson, “have publicly celebrated communist China in its embrace of state-run capitalist enterprises and a “superior” natural virtue in a restored Confucian culture over America’s “liberal” one.”
I have encountered this sort of radicalism in other places. For example, Sebastian Morello, essays editor for The European Conservative, wrote recently that “it is time to return Europe to the Holy Family”, ignoring the fact that, although Europe has been (and I would argue should remain) a predominantly Christian continent, there have always been a multitude of faiths living here and, more importantly, such mysticism is not compatible with how anyone who is not a clergy person lives: it is this rigidity that allowed the Left to grow in power.
However, before we move on, I want to stress that the Post-Liberals, as far as I know, are not as united as they are portrayed. For example, to my knowledge, Deneen is in this group because of his criticism of liberalism and some authoritarian attitudes (more below), but not for xenophobic views. This is similar to the radical Left. For example, Kendi is a critical race theorist while others are focused on weaponising sexual idenity. I want to make this distinction as it is important not to allow the sins of other men cloud a critique of liberalism that Democrat President Obama himself applauded.
What do the Neo-Integralists believe?
From the section above, we see that they stand in opposition to the liberal world view. A stance that is, to my mind, justifiable to a large extent. Liberalism, especially its incarnation of today, is more damaging to people than not. Its promise of liberation has led to enslavement through moral relativism, insanely powerful corporations that could grow because of a liberal world view of the fusion between markets and governments, more laws that aim to “protect” us from ourselves but which, in turn, restrict that precious freedom that liberalism claims to defend, damage to natural environment as “man ought to conquer nature”, science that became the religion of the laity and a definition of freedom that pushes the person into the hell of one’s instincts, all wrapped in an ongoing existential crisis due to a lack of meaning.
If this was all the Post-Liberals stood for, I would have nodded my head in agreement. However, the clue for the additional views that they hold lies in their other name: Neo-Integralists. They desire that governments are subject to the church (the institution, not the mystical body of faith). But this has failed in the past because the church (again, the institution) was ruled by corruptible men, like the men of today, and political power plays broke Christianity in 1054. Even nowadays, there is genuine hatred among certain churches of the Christian faith that regard other denominations as heretical. Also, if the argument is for the Catholic church to take the helm of this world government, I want to remind all who agree with this that the Pope was only a bishop (that of Rome) before 1054 – nothing more; so why not any other bishop / patriarch?
Not to mention the many “favours” between monarchs and the Pope or the Patriarchs…look at what is happening now in Russia (the Post-Liberals are probably those people on the Right who are cheering Putin’s “metaphysical war” on gay rights): the Moscow Patriarch, Kirill, “blessed” the war. If this was a true man of faith, he would have died before doing such blasphemy. As The Spectator put it:
“[…] Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. He is an enthusiastic supporter of Putin’s and has not relented in his praise for the war. In his sermon on Forgiveness Sunday, he described Russia’s ‘military operation’ as justified and almost sacred. Repeating accusations of genocidal behaviour towards the breakaway Russian entities in the east, he complained that Ukrainians were waging a more sinister war at the meta-physical level, against Russia and against Christianity, by backing immoral causes like gay and transgender rights.”
So, I say “no” to this view of the Post-Liberals. The church is not the Church. Defend the primacy of the Church, its monasteries, churches, argue for the Christian faith (not just the Catholic version, but its Orthodox and other denominations, such as the Anglican one) to be lived out truly and fully, but do not be foolish and argue for centralised power.
What is more, these radical Right-wingers do not really respect the nation. I cite once more from the Acton Institute essay:
“[…] it is worth pointing out that Vermeule and other post-liberals are not really nationalists at all. Vermeule has stated that he is not nationalist, “except in the very qualified, non-ideal and second-best sense that nationalism may be a temporary expedient born of necessity, in opposition to an overbearing transnational liberal order.” […].”
In other words, and quite clearly from the above paragraph, these people are POLITICAL NATIONALISTS, not true nationalists (in the sense of Herder’s work). The former can be viewed as those who use nationalism as a political and ideological tool rather than seeing it as a concept to understand the world’s diversity of peoples and, through such understanding, acquire a deep respect for this variety of nations. As the seventeen century Japanese philosopher Sato Naokata observed before Herder:
“What sort of countries are China, India, and Europe? Who is to determine that only Japan is the land of the kami and that it is an especially wonderful place? Do the gods referred to in the term “land of kami” do not exist in other countries?”
Any form of nationalism that does not manifest in the way Herder developed it – first to understand the diversity of other peoples, then to respect it and not to seek to expand (not excluding the possibility of defence, however) – should be rejected. As I argued in a recent article, political nationalism is different than nationalism which, in turn, is different than patriotism.
Moreover, the Neo-Integralists do not believe in academic freedom, which is similar to what those on the radical Left believe as well. In a recent article, Deneen argued “against academic freedom”, claiming that the notion itself was a liberal invention (based on John Stuart Mill’s liberal definition of freedom) that was used to destroy the identity of Christian universities and other wholesome values and institutions.
Deneen has a point: academic freedom has certainly been abused, especially in recent years with the introduction of worthless degrees based largely on ideological grounds (like gender studies or women studies), but the reason he can still profess is due to academic freedom.
In other words, just because a principle has been mis-used and abused it not proof that the principle is wrong: again, the corruptible human nature (the same one that the Post-Liberals want to trust to interpret the word of God through a centralised international church-government power structure) is to blame. Deneen’s argument is akin to the argument of the far-Left against free speech: ban free speech because [insert frustrated / ideologically-driven justification] – like Obama did recently.
Yes, I think that academic freedom has been used in the way that Deneen described (abused actually to promote ultra-liberal and far-Left ideas) but it does not mean that we have to do away with academic freedom because a) it was proposed by a liberal (J.S. Mill) and b) because the principle itself was abused – deal with the abusers, don’t get rid of the freedom itself.
Here is another way to argue what Deneen might have wanted to say, but the authoritarian angle of his ideas got the best of him: Notre Damme University should be Catholic to its core and teach with the Catholic tradition as the lens. However, I want the same to be true of Orthodox universities, of Hebrew and Islamic universities and of Buddhist universities too: I want this pluralism, these many paths of searching the truth (many are circular and overlap – hence why is even better to have them so that the interested individual sees the commonality in differences) so that choice of serious perspectives is maintained.
Moreover, if you think that academic freedom has been used to push ultra-liberal views on topics like abortion and atheism, good, do better and construct arguments that destroy the core claims of these ultra-liberal views. For example, on atheism, it is good to see what hardcore atheists (like the Four Horsemen of Atheism) are saying because their views describe exactly what God is not. Also, on abortion, many Right-wing articles I read on the topic are pathetically superficial: if the authors do not get the kernel of the counter-argument, then do not complain that the ultra-liberal view is gaining traction.
Additionally, the Post-Liberals reject free markets and capitalism (free enterprise). They favour a state-controlled capitalist system (like the CCP currently runs in China and how Lenin structured the early USSR economy). It is perhaps not by sheer randomness that another book review to Deneen’s 2017 book read: “Whole pages of this book would be comfortable in a Jacobin essay.”
Also, there are worrying sings of antisemitism among the ranks of the Neo-Integralists. As Christians – Catholics, Protestants or Orthodox – to hate, or even to dislike, the Jews and Israel is one of the most disgusting and wrong things one’s mind and heart can sustain: if anything, the Christian faith ought to be a bulwark for Israel and the Jews, for religious reasons alone, as they are the chosen people.
The Post-Liberals go against what Saint John Paul II said in 2000, at the turn of the century, as the new millennium begun: “[…] you are not to become instruments of violence, defend peace even with the cost of your own person […] saying yes to Christ, means saying yes to the most noble ideal”. I do not see this noble ideal in the writings of the Post-Liberals.
Why the Neo-Integralists may be appealing?
As Patterson explained in his essay:
“Despite its historical remoteness and problematic origins, post-liberal thought has begun to influence largely younger conservatives. As the left has increasingly captured elite institutions to impose “woke” ideological constraints on them, many on the right want a national counterrevolution.
Mainstream conservatives resist this approach, preferring local government, entrepreneurship, and the formation of civil society. These priorities do not resonate the way they once did. Opportunities to enter public life depend on carefully navigating rules and regulations designed by progressives to catch conservatives and relegate them to the margins.
What if local government is composed of a self-appointed vanguard of the left? What if entrepreneurship depends on starting a business in which clients require towing an ideological line? What if civil society is unequally policed, wherein progressive protesters receive elite endorsement and conservative ones federal investigations?
These questions might sound over the top, but I have been asked them from conservative students and recent graduates. This kind of uncertainty makes the promised authoritarian response of post-liberalism more seductive.”
I believe that we need to turn away from the path of multiculturalism, from the tyranny of relativism (all views are equally valid but different) and from the scientific god, but it matters how.
Certain things which liberalism helped achieve – gay rights, the sanctity of the individual outside religious institutions, natural rights of man and pluralistic societies (like America was before it was infected by the Woke) – are to be cherished and protected.
In other words, the reform of the current form of liberalism (which is really more of a far-Left mutation than anything resembling the classic liberal model) needs to be done with the individual at its centre: the liberty – THE LIBERTY – of the individual is the only thing that matters.
What is to be done?
Focus on the individual. Reject any grandiose plans – meta-narratives that are non-religions (i.e. ideological meta-narratives) are anathema for life.
If you are like me – a romantic irrationalist with a soft spot for mysticism and nature – then reject current society and argue for small communities without technology and a hierarchy based on meritocracy on top of which God (not the church) sits.
If you are not like me and want to make the best of the world around you but are concerned with the decaying liberal order and the savage attack of the Woke, then remember the sanctity of the individual, remember that only God judges and He alone is the only legitimate authority, embrace common sense and defend, at any cost, the liberty of the individual, rejecting the lure of Post-Liberals / Neo-Integralists as an alternative to red liberalism.
Thus: don’t forget the Soviets, don’t forget the Nazis. Reject the neo-communists and reject the neo-integralists. Defend the liberty of the individual – at any cost.