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Contemporary American Liberalism

Cold War Liberalism and New Left Ideologies

Looking through the ideologies shaped in the 50s of the past century, the main emphasis should be placed on the role of the firmly established two-party opposition that prevented other social and political movements from protecting their rights. The brightest representatives of the Cold War liberalism movement, Arthur Schlesinger and Daniel Bell, presented their radical views on society and politics as the ones that should be oriented on creating a technologically advanced and information-led environment. Similar to Cold War liberals, advocates of the New Left movement believed that the current social and political problems should be solved using the existing political structures. By striving to receive equal access to political rights and decision-makers, the New Left representatives resembled Cold War liberalism supporters who stated that America’s abundance was the main source for improving the political situation. Hence, it is more accurate to believe that the New Left movement was created to correct the mistakes of the “Old Left” ideologies pursued in the post war period.

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According to the Old Left ideologies, the era of industrialization should be radically re-organized to create a new society that is free from capitalism and technology. New solidarity, however, found its roots in communism that was more associated with the totalitarian regime. Schlesinger, therefore, believes that “under industrialism, the social order ceased to be a society in faith and brotherhood” (Freedom: A Fighting Faith 249). In particular, the liberalism supporter compares the American society with the asocial community, “…a society of onlookers, congested but lonely, technically advanced but utterly insecure, subject to a complicated mechanism of order but individually irresponsible” (Freedom: A Fighting Faith 250). While drawing the parallel with the New Left ideologies of the sixties, the emphasis was made on similar goals, but the means of achieving those goals are radically different. Specifically, the supporters of the New Left movement were more oriented on the intellectual youth that fights against the conservative structure limiting the access to education. Moreover, they promoted a participatory democracy and individualism in making decisions, which strictly opposed the communist ideology.

Because a radical shift from the traditional left outlook was made, the proletariat was no longer considered the revolutionary force. In particular, they vigorously opposed the existing authorities, and, therefore, class distinctions were initially accepted as decisive factors for shaping political ideologies. The desire to be divorced from the political ideology of capitalist society was also seen in the statements of Daniel Bell. The American sociologist acknowledges that the “democratic tradition…has played an important role in shaping American political forms” (On the “Radical Right” and Ideologies of the Fifties 104). In this respect, a man was believed as the source of authority. Despite that, the government was striving to restrict the electoral power of the people, which conformed to the conventional outlooks on the democratic principles in a post-war period. Judging from the above-considered limits to the power of lower social classes, the existing conventional mechanism of two-party reign in the 1950s was the major obstacle to establishing a radical change to a liberal and highly intellectual society.

Establishing new techniques of social and political power, Schlesinger insisted on the idea of creating a new interventionist and strong liberalism movement – a practical and pragmatic ideology aimed at striking the balance between the community and the individual (The Techniques of Freedom190). Freedom of society and political ideologies, however, was impossible unless the restricted, two-power system existed in the United States. In particular, Schlesinger focused on the middle classes that should come to the forth in the fight for a rightful, democratic community free from dogmatism. The established virtues, therefore, should not come from the authoritative dogmas, but internal belief in the intellectual and moral power of an individual. Humans should not be limited to the firmly established norms of the Communist society and the government, in its turn, should express tolerance toward the existing diverse groups (Freedom: A Fighting Faith 250).

While looking through the ideologies presented by the New Left representatives, certain distinctions occur. In particular, the newly emerged movement in the 60s was more focused on the role of intelligentsia rather on the labor force. According to Bell discussing the advent of new ideologies, intellectual power, as well as the introduction of moral discourse into a political debate, gave rise to the development of a wider outlook on social and economic relations (The End of Ideology in the West: An Epilogue 387). The New Left supporters, therefore, were more oriented on the international perspective of the development of American society. Hence, the new movement seeks to introduce a social activist method rejecting the authority and promulgating libertarian socialist traditions. Hence, the U.S. New Left Party relied on the concept of the radical black movement, as well as feminist tendencies to introduce progressive politics to social intellectual movement.

In conclusion, it should be stressed that the politics of the New Left activists were oriented on correcting the errors of the traditional Left movements. Though both movements were oriented against the totalitarian regime and communist movement restricting the internal rights and freedoms, there were significant distinctions in the methods they used to achieve their goals. In particular the representatives of the radical left – Daniel Bell and Schlesinger, progressive activists striving to introduce an information-led society and fighting against totalitarianism – believed that the conventional regime intellectual honest and technological advancement was introduced. In contrast, the New Left movement was more politically radical and fought against the existing regime using introducing different movements in the educational sphere. They rejected authority and proclaimed the pluralism movement as the basis of modern democratic society.

Equality “is the nerve of liberalism”- that is, its core value

Ronald Dworkin, an author of the equality theory, supports the idea that legal reasoning has a moral dimension and stands as a form of liberalism considering the right to equality as an independent political principle. The new conception of liberty, therefore, is not confined to a specific aspect; its dynamics center liberalism as the one attached to a combination of moral and legal factors. Judging from the above, the principle of liberalism is associated with the life choices people make, as well as the right moral actions that do not infringe the liberties of others. Because equality is the core value of liberalism, as presented by Dworkin, the American Cold War liberalism deviates significantly from the established paradigms of quality. Hence, modern liberalism practiced in the United States is one that was established from various ideals. The liberals allowed several freedoms such as voting rights for Africans, right for gays, and pro-choice rights for women. Also, liberals firmly believe in democracy as the principle and the main basis of civil liberties.

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In contrast to a newly emerged form of liberalism, the existing norms and values in a post-war period contradict the concept of equality and freedom of expression. In particular, the conventional outlook on the class structure of a capitalist society prevents people from achieving their goals and establishing freedom of choice and speech. Hence, the existence of social classes already excludes the possibility of equal access to social and political freedoms promulgated by Dworkin. In particular, World War II American liberalism rejects the necessity to consider moral justice as the right of individuals, but the principle of moral integrity. In other words, the idea of integrity is confined to the principle of treating citizens as a coherent scheme of moral judgments. Such a vision, therefore, excludes the possibility of equality among people.

Dworkin further explains that liberty needs to be quantified to distinguish a decision that heavily invades one’s liberty from those that have a light effect on the liberty of an individual (182). It could be noted that conservatives desire liberties to various degrees since liberty was proven quantifiable. With equality, it is clear that both conservatives and liberals have a distinct meaning of equality. Liberals believe that the government ought to treat all citizens equally. On the other hand, conservatives believe that government should not be neutral in the way it treats all human beings since it is always preceded by the theory, which should identify what the human being is likely to be. In brief, liberals tend to treat equality with neutrality while on the other hand conservatism treats equality according to how individuals are perceived, mostly known as a substantive view. More importantly, it is apparent that liberals are free to choose the kind of life they perceive to be good while conservatives always limit individuals to a given number of alternatives that are available within their substantive view. An example can be given where liberals allow individuals to opt for pornography life while conservatives tend to limit people to the number of options available.

While deliberating further on the concept of morality, Dworkin believes that “the liberal package of ideas had no constitutive political morality at all; it was a package formed by accident and held together by self-interest” (184). The old strategies of morality, therefore, met rigorous opposition on the part of the New Deal liberalism that seeks to promote political morality as an inherent condition of modern political history. Hence, the bureaucratic apparatus supports the idea of economic and industrial growth and reject the principle of individualism and competition. In this respect, the Cold War liberalism rigidly opposes Dworkin’s thesis about the principle of equality and moral judgment as of the core of liberalism.

In conclusion, Dworkin’s statement is focused on the idea that liberalism should be based on constitutive political morality; it should also declare the principles of individualism, competition, and liberty of expression. About this, the Cold War liberalism opposes the statement because its movement does not recognize these principles. On the contrary, it focuses mainly on the principle of moral and legal integrity for all citizens. Class distinctions here play a tangible role in defining the liberties of people. A single mechanism for all people prevents society from shaping diverse views on the concept of equality and political morality.

Works Cited

Bell, Daniel. “On the “Radical Right” and Ideologies of the Fifties” The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties. Ed. Daniel Bell. US: Harvard University Press. 1962. Print. pp. 103-123.

Bell, Daniel. “The End of Ideology in the West: An Epilogue ”, The End of Ideology: On the Exhaustion of Political Ideas in the Fifties. Ed. Daniel Bell. US: Harvard University Press. 1962. Print. pp. 393-407.

Dworkin, Ronald. “Liberalism”. A Matter of Principle. US: Harvard University Press, 1985, Print. pp. 181-204.

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Schlesinger, Arthur. “Freedom: A Fighting Faith”. The Vital Center: Freedom of Politics. Ed. Arthur Schlesinger. US: Transaction Publishers, 1997. Print. pp. 243-256.

Schlesinger, Arthur. “The Techniques of Freedom”. The Vital Center: Freedom of Politics. Ed. Arthur Schlesinger. US: Transaction Publishers, 1997. Print. pp. 189-218.

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