09 September 2021, The Tablet

How to renew the promises of liberalism

Post-liberal politics

How to renew the promises of liberalism

England football manager Gareth Southgate’s leadership style captured English identity this summer and unified a polarised nation
Photo: Alamy/PA, Nick Potts


Contemporary liberalism is destroying the promise of tolerance, generosity, fair play and liberty. A political philosopher argues that a renewed politics infused with values drawn from other communities and traditions is the best hope for social cohesion and shared prosperity

At the heart of what I call “post-liberal” thinking is a paradoxical blending of apparent opposites. Gareth Southgate’s style of leadership in the recent Euros fused progressive with traditional dispositions in a way that captured contemporary English identity – courage with caution, confidence with humility, anti-racism with love of country. For a moment it unified a country that is profoundly polarised, giving hope after the paroxysm of the pandemic and last summer’s protests.

Paradox, as the Jewish thinker and Labour peer Maurice Glasman argues, can be defined as “something that sounds wrong but is right […] such as ‘tradition shapes modernity’, ‘faith will redeem citizenship’, ‘trust is the basis of competition’, ‘contribution strengthenssolidarity’, ‘labour power improves competitiveness’, ‘decentralisation underpins patriotism’.” Post-liberal politics is all of these things, and more. It promotes the social virtues that have gone missing from contemporary liberalism – courage, compassion, humility, restraint, the fulfilment of our obligations to others.

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