Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: I Social and Political Thought - Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2
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I: I Social and Political Thought - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, Summer 1980, vol. 3, No. 2 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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I Social and Political Thought
The following summaries survey a variety of social and political topics, ranging from theoretical analyses of community, bureaucracy, and Kantian political reason to historical studies of the social-political thought of Rousseau, the Utilitarians, Samuel Gompers, Bergson, and Oakeshott. In addition, the studies of Hunt (et al.), Knox, and Boyle offer detailed case studies of the “political history” of ambiguous phases of “liberalism.” From the perspective of individual freedom, we can approach these diverse themes by seeing the several attempts to reconcile a sense of community with the protection of individual rights.
Community, Individuality, and Freedom
“Toward a Philosophy of Community.” Philosophy Forum 16, Nos. 1/2(1979):101–125.
Leslie Armour observed in “Value, Community, and Freedom” that “the question of a ‘real community’ is. . . the most pressing issue of our time.” Prof. Drengson concurs and adds that developing a philosophy of community will do much to resolve the social and environmental problems which plague the modern world. In large part, these problems derive from a failure to appreciate the complex interconnections which comprise both the natural and human processes of community.
Since sustaining a community requires regular contacts, locale figures prominently in communal life. To distinguish whether a given group functions as a community, Drengson postulates four basic axioms of community life: (1) locals respect one another in word and deed (Mutual respect and trust); (2) locals look after locals when help is needed (Interdependence); (3)locals work to maintain the integrity of their locale (Physical plant and ecology); (4) locals accept diversity (Tolerance).
Throughout his article, the author stresses the analogy between living in human communities and existence within natural ecosystems. On a purely practical level, a cherishing of the land helps to assure a group's very survival, since poisoned earth and sky will not nurture children who must carry on community traditions. At a deeper level, the same attitudes of reverence, interdependence, maintenance, and tolerance of diversity required for a society are also needed to sustain coexistence on the purely natural level.
Drengson discerns four major themes which underlie life in most human communities. They are: the affective (or aesthetic), productive, rational, and spiritual. To a great extent, they also parallel quite similar themes in the lives of individuals. From individual to individual, from community to community, these themes will receive varying emphasis. Nevertheless, harkening back to Plato's arguments in the Republic, Drengson asserts that, both for the individual and the community, harmonizing these four elements looms as a primary task. It is crucial that the person and the group achieve a skillful blending in order to avoid disharmony, suffering, alienation, and other ills.
In connection with these four motifs, Toennies's distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft relationships becomes particularly fruitful. Gemeinschaft ties result from the interaction of natural wills (spontaneity, emotion, attraction, sharing, caring, etc.), while Gesellschaft relations arise from contact among rational wills (associations of special interest groups, contracts, corporations, etc.) This distinction captures some of the paradoxes between our need for both individuality and belonging in society. “We are both social and antisocial, wanting both the public and the private, wanting to plan but to live spontaneously.” Much of the drama of social life is the struggle to achieve balance in individuality and community without either oppressively inflexible or insensitively mechanistic forms of human interaction.
Rousseau's Social Thought
“Order and Disorder in Rousseau's Social Though.” Proceedings of the Modern Language Association 94 (March 1979):247–260.
We might reconcile the various antinomies found in Rousseau's social thought by a dialectical process reminiscent of Hegel's logic. Thus, the natural order of God's creation which is fractured by man's experience and. . . experiment, of discovering the moral realm” is recaptured by the imposition of the organically ordered state. By this artifice the natural order is realized in a synthesis of rational nature and human construction. Without the imposition of the moral constraints of the organic state, untutored instinct would lead to societal chaos of competing selfish desires. However, the state, by allegedly unifying and embodying the disparate wills of its constituents, reconciles their differences and by tyrannical means imposes the moral order that cannot prevail outside of the organic body politic. Therefore, according to Rousseau, “no voluntary cooperative utopia could ever exist. Men had to be coerced into becoming citizens. . .” Men had to be divested of their natural selfish impulses through the tutelage of the state in order to realize a higher, moral nature—one unconcerned with the automistic self.
A Sociological History of Utilitarianism
“Utilitarians Revisited,” American Journal of Sociology 85(November 1979):516–550.
Camic challenges the predominant sociological view of utilitarian social theory, as well as the “presentist” orientation of the profession that enables it to avoid looking at the utilitarians directly. We need to study works of Hume, Smith, Bentham, and J.S. Mill, for their sociological ideas, because if sociologists are to account for how social theories arise, change, and grow, they must engage in a sociological history of sociology. Such an account will clarify the process by which different accounts of social reality evolve, partly as a result of different individuals occupying different social posts in intellectual communities. When a new discipline comes along it must respond to the given intellectual community and justify its existence; as we shall later see, this helps to explain the distortion of utilitarian theory by sociologists.
The sociological myth about utilitarianism stems from Parsons's The Structure of Social Action. He argued that: (1) the utilitarians' model of action was composed of atomistic, egoistically motivated actors who employ only means of expedience to achieve material ends; (2) utilitarianism declined because it was unstable and was unable to provide correct interpretations of the fact; (3) utilitarianism contained an inner dilemma; and (4) it could not explain how social order was possible, given (1). The inner dilemma refers to the alleged fact that the utilitarians say nothing about the content of ends in the action process, thus rendering them random. The only escape from this alleged utilitarian dilemma is to modify the concept of ends (accommodating them into the “situation”) or to drop the idea that actors imply rational means. But both of these alternatives deny the notion of voluntary action; hence the dilemma.
The utilitarians were not Hobbesian egoists; sympathy and other passions played a large role in utilitarian explanation. Passions were seen as social in their genesis and in their function. Further-more, one of the main concerns was to show how social norms helped to produce order by counteracting and meshing with egoistic motivation. The utilitarians rejected the idea that man could live in a state of nature, using force and fraud at will. Indeed, they believed that man was a social being. These statements apply to all of the utilitarians, though in somewhat diminished form for Bentham, since his main focus was social reform rather than social science. The concern of the utilitarians with social science, that is, their attempt to find general and universally valid law and principles governing action in society should put to rest any notion that the utilitarians saw action as random.
If Parsons's view of the utilitarians is totally wrong, his explanation for their demise must be rejected. Such a demise was caused, says Osterman, by the rise of historicism and its view of inexorable law of social and cultural development, which the utilitarians rejected with their emphasis on permanent features of human nature. Utilitarianism's appeal was also diminished since it came to be identified with the Philosophical Radicals' pamphlets, phlets, which pushed for social reforms deriving from a few simplified axioms about human nature. The liassez-faire climate of the 1840s also helped to blunt the utilitarians more progovernment appeal.
Ironically, Spencer's evolutionism and his laissez-faire principles came to be known in America as Social Darwinism (which was a simplified Spencer plus a little Darwin) and Social Darwinians dominated the universities. Sociologists who were emerging at this time, identified Social Darwinians with utilitarians and vigorously attacked the entrenched ideology. Their attacks on utilitarianism can be seen both as a way of giving the new discipline an identity as well as their particular attempt to solve the Hobbesian problem.
Sociologists can learn a great deal from the utilitarians. They can see that the path pioneered by Parsons, and almost all later sociologists is not inevitable. Parsons's path wrongly sought order by the fusing of sociological or normative factors together with the self-interested means/ends reasoning. The utilitarians, by contrast, emphasized the interplay between motivation, norms, markets, and political and social arrangements; means/ends reasoning is only part of a large utilitarian whole.
Spencer and Comte in American Labor Thought
“The Spencerian and Comtian Nexus in Gompers's Labor Philosophy: The Impact of Non-Marxian Evolutionary Thought.” Labor History 20(Fall 1979): 510–523.
Cotkin disputes the two claims that labor leader Samuel Gompers's (1850–1924) early development was influenced by Marxism or that he was a pragmatist. Though Gompers's class society analysis and the support for a working class organization was Marxian-inspired, historians have neglected the influence of Henry McGregor and Frank Foster on Gompers's development in the late nineteenth century. McGregor was a Comtian; Foster was a Spencerian who flirted with anarchism. Despite their differences, both espoused non-Marxian evolutionary views which disparaged politics. Gompers derived theoretical guidance from his close intellectual contact with both men.
To see Foster's and McGregor's influence, we can examine their views in relation to Gompers's on the role of the state and legislation and on the possibility of progress through the trade unions.
Foster's theory of trade unionism stressed the individual and rejected the state. In 1894 he opposed a bill limiting working hours, though he did favor child labor laws and child compulsory education because children were unable to protect themselves. Gompers held similar positions but both he and Foster denounced state charity in Spencerian language. Gompers was particularly incensed at the idea of the state setting a “fair” wage; he also thought state compulsory arbitration would weaken strong unions and make the weak unions accept poor agreements.
Foster believed that state interference retarded progress. He saw progress growing out of the trade union movement, for it emerged organically from the people who had to sell their labor to survive. Gompers used very similar language to oppose a compulsory arbitration law in New Zealand: the government, said Gompers, was trying to stem a natural phenomenon—struggle. Gompers did turn to the government before World War I, but (he wrote to Foster) it was under the pressure by the left wing of the movement.
As for McGregor, he frequently lectured on how history progressed through oppressed classes using different and more potent weapons than those of the class it was revolting against. On this view, the working class could only fail in the political realm. Gompers undoubtedly attended these lectures, since he was very familiar with their site, the New York City Positivist community of Comtians. McGregor believed that the labor organizations would triumph in the (Comtian) industrial stage of human development but to do so required unity and slow change. Gompers led his American Federation of Labor by these two principles (minus the Comtian rhetoric). Gompers's basic philosophy was that the labor union was a progressive force but only if it moved slowly and stayed out of politics.
Bureaucracy in Weber & Kafka
“Weber and Kafka on Bureaucracy: A Question of Perspective.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 78 (Summer 1979):361–375.
Western civilization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has witnessed an unprecedented growth of bureaucratic institutions. Both Max Weber and Franz Kafka, two seminal German thinkers of the early twentieth century, noted the growth of bureaucracy in the West. Yet, they drew quite different conclusions concerning the significance of this development.
Max Weber championed bureaucratic administration as the most efficient and equitable method of social organization. Characterized by a “rational-legal” form of authority, the bureaucratic order replaces the traditional “charismatic” (or personal) exercise of power. In a bureaucracy, relationships among officials and relations between officials and the public are categorical rather than individual, rule-governed rather than idiosyncratic. Like the modern assembly-line, this friction-free, self-regulating machine with standardized interchangeable parts serves humanity to the extent that it is “dehumanized.”
Methodologically, Weber, the social scientist, understood that we cannot unravel the skein of objective and subjective elements in culture as efficiently as we can problems in the physical sciences. In order to attain greater “cleanliness” in the study of human problems, Weber devised the method of “ideal types.” With this technique, Weber theorized about individual social structures conceived in a hypothetically “pure” state—unhampered by peripheral influences and social ills. Later sociologists, like Talcott Parsons, rejected this methodology in favor of more empirical techniques. They repudiated theories based on ideal types which were unrelated to the larger social system in the “real” world or detached from the often determining influences of individual psychology.
For Franz Kafka, administration by functionaries represented the most inefficient and irrational social organization imaginable. His critique of the bureaucratic order parallels in many regards the denunciations proffered by modern-day “dysfunctionalists.”
In his novel The Castle, Kafka presents the frightening portrait of an individual confronting the baffling vagaries of a thoroughly bureaucratic society. Seeking validation for his status as land-surveyor in a small village, K, the hero of the novel, explores every avenue of appeal, diplomacy and alliance to gain audience with the elusive Kramm, the head of a mammoth establishment of unaccountable procedures and inaccessible documents. The faceless, humorless officials he encounters are mere fragments of an ever-rising pyramid of authority which has no discernable summit. Bereft of even a human name, K nonetheless symbolizes the valid human being who seeks meaning in a mechanized world which runs for no reason except its own perpetuation.
Prof. McDaniel counsels social researchers to consider the insights into human problems which literature provides. In this regard, he cites Jules Langsner: “Science interprets the phenomenal world with reference to the coherence of structure and behavior. Art transforms the phenomenal world into poetic metaphors with reference to experience unique to man. Both are indispensable to the enrichment of life in our civilization, and each can only benefit from a mature reciprocity with the other.”
Bergson's Political Doctrines
“Bergson's Philosophy and French Political Doctrines: Sorel, Maurras, Péguy, and de Gaulle.” Government and Opposition 15(Winter 1980):75–91.
Having pondered the trauma of the First World War, Henri Bergson expressed his mature thought on moral and political issues in Les Deux sources de la morale et de la réligion. Significantly, however, Bergson's political doctrines have exerted a minor influence on social activists in comparison with his more purely philosophical teachings developed before the war. These philosophical hypotheses have exercised a varied and at times contradictory influence on four political figures in France.
Georges Sorel, spearhead of France's anarcho-syndicalist movement at the beginning of the century, made the explicit claim that he was applying Bergson's ideas to political action. Sorel's ideas in Réflexions sur la violence were immediately compared with Bergson's theories of life and vitality. In other writings, Sorel embraced Bergson's epistemological arguments. Nonetheless, Bergson himself recognized the many major points that separated him from Sorel. The latter's dogged insistence on elimination of the supposedly decadent middle class and his praise of violence as a moral and social tonic for France were but two of these major disagreements.
For Charles Maurras, leader of the fiercely nationalistic Action Française, Bergson represented an alien Romantic tradition which had undermined the rationality of French classicism and set France into woeful decline. Bergson's emphasis upon intuition and sentiment in the search for truth proved him a purveyor of “German pantheistic evolutionism.” The Action Francaise viewed Bergson as an intellectual débaucher who was not and never could be French. For Maurras, therefore, Bergson's philosophy abetted France's decay while for Sorel it presaged and nurtured the nation's rebirth.
Discontent with the dessicated postivism which France had inherited from the nineteenth century caused many French intellectuals to look upon religion and mystical idealism in a quite favorable light. A Catholic Renaissance ensued around 1910, and its most illustrious spokesman was the republican Charles Péguy. His poetic appeal to Frenchmen of differing political allegiances approximates Bergson's idea of creative politics through an intuitive synthesis of disparate views. An admirer of Bergson, Péguy concurred in the philosopher's firm rejection of the anti-Semitism which Daudet, Bernanos, and Drumont had made respectable among French conservatives.
Charles de Gaulle explicitly stated that his view of the grandeur of war was derived from Bergson. The philosopher had described the extreme difficulty the mind experiences when confronted by a fluid, unstable situation, which describes war in its purest state. The greatness of war stems from the heroic efforts which must be expended to comprehend and cope with a supremely unstable situation.
None of these persons or movements “applied” Bergson's philosophy definitively to political life. Bergson's diverse appeal derives from his “sometimes incongruous blend of political ideas. He combines individual freedom with criticism of social divisions and classes; he affirms the value of community and tradition, but encourages change and innovation in society. Finally, Bergson tries to reconcile man's need for religious and spiritual values with his achievements in technology and science.” It is not surprising that such a wealth of diverse ideas should give birth to a diverse breed of disciples.
Oakeshott's Political Theory
“Oakeshott on Politics.” The Journal of Politics 41 (February 1979):150–168.
Archer examines the foundational concepts developed in Oakeshott's works in order to define the character of this conservative political theory. These concepts are the following: experience, rationalism, empiricism, tradition, human conduct, and ideal character.
The basis of Oakeshott's understanding of experience is his philosophical idealism which holds that there is no reality apart from ideas. Philosophy, then, is the whole or totality of experience which seems to imply that there can be no theoretical as opposed to empirical understanding of society. This leads Archer to a consideration of Oakeshott's indictment of rationalism for its misguided attempts to theoretically grasp the mechanics of society and organize our lives rigidly. The paradigm of rationalism is the planned society. Its proponents, Stalin, Hitler, and R.A. Butler, are indicted along with all those like Hayek, whom Oakeshott believes to be just as doctrinaire in their antipathy to planning as its proponents are in their enthusiasm for it. But in his zeal to stigmatize his opponents for excessive rationalism, Archer contends that Oakeshott has developed his own “theory” and, hence, stands exposed to this same charge of theoretical excess.
Oakeshott was suspicious of empiricism which he caricatures as the view that present observation is the source of all knowledge. In its place Oakeshott hopes to restore the status of tradition as the principal guidepost to political action. Tradition for Oakeshott is narrowly identified with the British legal tradition and, therefore, seems unjustifiably narrow in definition. His selectivity is indicative of his own rationalism, Archer argues, as it seems to presuppose a theory of what constitutes the genuine British tradition.
The tradition of Roman conduct to which we are referred by Oakeshott can be grasped through the process of idealization. By identifying the ideal typical features of human conduct, we disclose the tradition of any society.
Given this background, it is not surprising that Oakeshott's politics have neither “rationalist” nor “empiricist” foundations. It is traditionalist in as much as it takes the prevailing political arrangements as given and attempts to sustain them. These arrangements for Britain consist of a government which functions as an umpire and strives to maintain the traditional British concept of freedom. Collectivism in all its forms is rejected.
Oakeshott's Political Philosophy
“Review Article: The Political Philosophy of Michael Oakeshott.” British Journal of Political Science 9 (October 1979):481–506.
The author evaluates Michael Oakeshott's conception of philosophy, especially his political philosophy. Oakeshott's conception of philosophy falls within the idealist tradition. For him experience—the unity of subject and object—is the only reality, and philosophy's task is to offer an absolute understanding of experience as a whole. Any limited standpoint distorts experience; in order fully to understand something within the whole of experience, one must understand its relation to other experiences or entitites, its conditions of existence or its postulates. Philosophy is able to understand the totality of experience by putting together all these defined and interrelated concepts into a coherent whole.
Oakeshott's conception of political philosophy follows from his conception of philosophy, although at different points in his career he has stressed more the critical or the constructive aspect.
There are two types of “practices”: prudential and moral. Prudential practices are instrumental, designed to achieve a specific substantive purpose. Moral practices have no extrinsic purpose, are accepted as authoritative or binding, and are not instrumental. Human associations are, similarly, either enterprise (or purposive) associations or moral (or practicebased) associations. “Enterprise associations” contain members united by pursuit of a common purpose; whatever authority there is derived from the common purpose and is meant to help achieve the purpose. A “moral association,” however, accepts the authority of common practices and procedures and it is only this which binds its members together, who may pursue any self-chosen substantive purpose they wish.
A civil association cannot be an “enterprise” (or purposive) association: says Oakeshott. For a purposive association is voluntary, but a civil association is not voluntary in that people can't leave it when they no longer share its purposes. A compulsory enterprise association forces men to subscribe to purposes they may not believe in, and thus violates their freedom and autonomy.
Civil associations are constituted by the recognition of the authority of respublica, that is, the system of interrelated rules which specify civil obligations. Citizens need not share any other purposes, nor do they need to approve of the rules.
Oakeshott calls the process by which citizens influence the legislative authority “politics.” He believes you cannot discuss political principles in terms of abstract ideals and principles, for they are too broad and indeterminate to be integrated into the life of the community. Politics tries not to pursue perfection, and political proposals should be understood in terms of how well they fit within the prevailing civil discourse. Politics need not occur in civil life, for Oakeshott doesn't see its great significance. Civil association exists to provide civil freedom, that is, freedom to pursue one's purposes and be restrained by nothing except general and formal norms to respect each other's civility.
Parekh thinks Oakeshott may be the only thinker in the history of political philosophy to have noticed the problematic nature of political philosophy; in order to truly analyze the grounds of politics, a philosopher must go far beyond it, but in order to be political philosophy, the philosopher must treat politics as an autonomous realm.
Parekh's criticisms of Oakeshott are as follows. Oakeshott's account of theorizing is dubious, since it is hard to see how, for example, a historian relates events to the postulates underlying the disciplines; nor are scientific laws the conditions or postulates of the events explained by them. Furthermore, although Oakeshott says theorizing entails no recommendations, Oakeshott's own work is full of implicit and explicit recommendations. Thus, in his account of the civil association, Oakeshott can claim that it is not an enterprise by identifying freedom with the ability to choose one's substantive purposes and by believing that such freedom is desirable. How else could he maintain that enterprise must be voluntary? There is nothing in the nature of an enterprise that makes this so; it is because Oakeshott thinks a compulsory enterprise would violate autonomy and this ought not to be done that he thinks compulsion should be limited to a civil association where this compulsion is more indirect.
Oakeshott's definition of a moral purpose as one with no extrinsic purpose is open to serious dispute. There are nonpurposive practices (e.g. good table manners) and there are authoritative practices that aren't moral (e.g. apartheid, caste system). Indeed, it is difficult to see how practices can be defined independently of the context of human purposes and satisfactions. This is particularly so for civil society, for many of the rules are made for specific purposes (e.g. tax laws). Though civil society may be constituted by authority, the legislative conduct is surely purposive.
Oakeshott's attempt to combine freedom in his interpretation with a civil association is also fragile. If the citizens must recognize the authority of the laws, why does this not violate their freedom to some extent?
Undermocratic Liberal Republicans
“The Failure of the Liberal Republic in France, 1795–1799: The Road to Brumaire.” Journal of Modern History 51(December 1979):734–759.
Marxian historians of Napoleon's coup, his eighteenth Brumaire, have heretofore failed to take account of the “political history” of the period between 1795 and 1799. Consequently, unlike Marx's analysis of Louis Napoleon's ascension to power, these historians have failed to observe the parliamentary conflicts that led to the downfall of the Directory and the end of representative government. In the light of such a “political history,” we note that the success of the Brumaire coup resulted from a fundamental contradiction within the dominant, middle-class, propertied faction in the Councils. This republican faction established a representative government based on electoral politics, yet it limited direct participation by the masses to the first stage of the electoral process, reserving the final selection of delegates to some 30,000 French male property owners. These republicans of the majority faction endorsed the principles of political participation, yet they were unwilling to accept the growth of organized political parties, viewing such attempts by the Jacobin left and the constitutional-monarchist right as threats to the cohesiveness of the Revolution. Being the beneficiaries of the Revolution, landowning, professional, and commercial bourgeoisie, wanted to preserve the Revolution by establishing an anti-aristocratic government, but they were equally unwilling to tolerate a genuinely popular government of the people.
This unwillingness to organize themselves as a party led to the eventual undoing of these “centrists,” and as their own ranks of “regicides,” were replaced by new men, less committed to republican ideology, they were ripe for the anti-party rhetoric of Napoleon. Their lack of appetite for the consequences of elections is evident both in their purges of Jacobin and right wing deputies during this period, and in their opposition against annual elections.
The failure of the French liberal republic of the Directory was not the result of an unduly apathetic electorate of an overly autonomous military. Its demise was precipitated by the policy of the Council moderates who denounced parties. Thus, by 1799, a substantial number of these moderates endorsed the technocratic, authoritarian vision of government which Napoleon's coup would bring to fruition, and they endorsed his coup. Under Bonaparte as “ultimate Director,” the legislature was reduced to impotence, parties lost their function, and the executive ruled supreme—thus, the Directorial regime succumbed because it failed to rest upon the imperative of representative government, i.e. the formation of a party organization.
Wilkes and Radical Politics
“Popular Politics and Provincial Radicalism: Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1769–1785.” Albion (1979):224–241.
This article discusses the electoral results in Newcastle upon Tyne in the years 1769–1785 to discover the true strength of Wilkite radicalism. The author claims that other historians have overemphasized electoral results and have, consequently, failed to accurately assess the impact of popular radicalism upon the parliamentary politics of the town. By examining previously neglected archival sources, newspapers, a Wilkite petition of 1769 and the poll books, John Brewer gives a dissenting assessment, which emphasizes and confirms the strength of Wilkite radicalism.
Nonelectoral evidence confirms Brewer's thesis as it directly validates the existence of a popular political consciousness grounded in the Wilkite perception of the role of representatives as the delegates of the people. This doctrine had previously not been found in Newcastle earlier in the century. When we analyze the electoral returns for the period, it is seen that the defeat of radical candidates was primarily caused by the votes of nonresident electors, and that radicals received much support from the local retailers and craftsmen. Finally electoral and non-electoral evidence creates a strong presumption that radical opinion transcending local issues accounted for the uncharacteristically divisive political struggles in Newcastle.
Late Liberal Imperialism
“The Liberal Imperialists, 1892–1906.” “The Institute of Historical Research of London University. 52(May 1979):49–82.
Gladstonian Liberalism manifested a decidedly anti-imperialist bent since at least the 1870s, but in the 1890s the Liberal party divided over the issue with a growing faction embracing the previously despised imperialism associated with the Tory party. Precipitated by such issues as the Boer War (1899–1902), the imminent division of China by European powers, and the Spanish-American War, Liberals of an imperialist stripe enjoyed considerable electoral success under the leadership of Lord Rosebery and the guidance of his Liberal Club. From a mere 13.6 percent of the Liberal party in 1892, the imperialists, managed to secure 35.7 percent of the Liberal seats before the 1906 elections.
The Liberal party in parliament during the period from 1892 to 1906 was over-whelmingly middle class, with a smattering of aristocrats and working-class labor leaders. The Liberal Imperialists, however, departed markedly from the occupational and class backgrounds of their anti-imperialist colleagues. Not a single working-class member professed imperialistic leanings, and the strength of Rosebery's faction came from the landowning classes and the wealthier section of industrialists. Curiously, of those Liberal peers who were active in political discussions only two adhered to the imperialist line. Imperialists, in addition to their lofty social backgrounds which set them apart from their antagonists, tended to be younger because of attrition as those adherents of the older laissez-faire liberalism died out and younger more statist liberals succeeded then. Finally, the imperialists tended to adhere to the Anglican and Wesleyan faiths, with the nonconformist seats being represented among the anti-imperialists.
Imperialism as a force within the Liberal party met its demise after the election of 1906, when other issues, of tariff reform and educational policy, took precedence over foreign affairs, and England turned to continental affairs rather than colonial adventurism. The era of Liberal imperialism concluded in 1910 when the Liberal League was quietly disbanded.
Kant and Reason in Politics
“Kant's View of Reason in Politics.” Philosophy 54 (January 1979):19–33.
Kant and Hegel's respective theories of politics are a study in contrasts. Whereas, Hegel is extraordinarily insightful in his discussion of the political relationships operating within a state, Kant's remarks are unduly abstract and unrealistic. On the other hand, Hegel's excessively pessimistic belief that inter-state relationships required the stern hand of a world state to dispel the possibility of international discord is the antithesis of Kant's optimistic estimate of the possibilities of international peace and accord.
These contrasts between the political writings of Kant and Hegel may be explained by referring to their opposed analyses of reason. For Hegel, reason is the tendency present in all action to realize the logical potentialities which present themselves in nature in the form of the concrete universal. The achievements of the state which seem so impressive as they manifest themselves in intrastate affairs, then are attributed to the potentiality for such achievement imminent in the state according to Hegel. Little wonder, then, that Hegel is led to assert the requirement of a supra-national state in order to resolve international differences.
By contrast, for Kant the Practical Reason is the faculty for understanding these principles which describe the necessary conditions of all social intercourse. It, therefore, grasps the reciprocity of rights and claims which make peaceful coexistence and personal moral achievement possible. Moreover, this account of the Practical Reason is consistent with and supported by Burt's philosophy of history as presented in the Idea for a Universal History. Here it is affirmed that nature's appointed role for Reason is to disclose to mankind the need for harmony between its members. This, according to Kant is “Nature's secret plan.” Thus, in contrast to the Hegelian conception of human interaction as necessarily discordant, Kant attributes to human beings the capacity in the form of the Practical Reason to resolve their differences rationally and internationally by the use of international law.