The relationship between liberalism, radicalism and conservatism began to change in the last decades of the 20th century, largely as the left disintegrated. The idea of an alternative to capitalism seemed to many chimerical, more so after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Even before the Berlin Wall had come down, a new kind of economic liberalism, unstitched from the restraints of social need, had emerged – what many now call “neoliberalism”. At its core was a philosophy of deregulation, privatisation and the introduction of market forces into virtually every nook and cranny of social life.
At the same time, the organisations that had provided working-class people with hope and dignity crumbled. Trade unions were crushed and radical social movements eroded. Societies became atomised and much of the social architecture essential for people to flourish was dismantled. It was a process not confined to the west, but visible across the globe.
Against this background, many of those looking to recreate a sense of social solidarity have been drawn to conservative, even reactionary, ideas of belonging, rooted in nation, tradition and race. And, in an age in which there exist few transformative social movements, many have turned to strongmen to do the job. [Continue reading…]