Whither liberalism? (Walter Russell Mead in The American Interest)

Walter Russell Mead has a compelling and skeptical assessment of American nostalgia for the Fordist, post-World War II boom that people on both the left and the right hearken back to with so much regularity and fondness these days:

Finally, in this regard, the blue model has impoverished our lives and blighted our society in more subtle ways. Many Americans became (and remain) stuff-rich and meaning-poor. Many people classified as “poor” in American society have an historically unprecedented abundance of consumer goods—anything, essentially, that a Fordist factory here or abroad can turn out. But far too many Americans still have lives that are poor in meaning, in part because the blue social model separates production and consumption in ways that are ultimately dehumanizing and demeaning. A rich and rewarding human life neither comes from nor depends on consumption, even lots of consumption; it comes from producing goods and services of value through the integration of technique with a vision of social and personal meaning. Being fully human is about doing good work that means something. Is a blue society with our level of drug and alcohol abuse, and in which the average American watches 151 hours of television a month, really the happiest conceivable human living arrangement?

The article is called “The Once and Future Liberalism”. Note that Mead here is talking about small l “liberalism” and not “Liberalism”. Have a look at the full, rather long piece here. I think its worth the time.

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