Fritz Stern on “liberalism” as understood by the Germanic Ideology and the Conservative Revolution

The Germanic Ideology on liberalism

“Above all, these men loathed liberalism, Lagarde and Moeller saw in liberalism the cause and the incarnation of all evil. It may seem curious that they should have fastened on liberalism, the one political force in Germany that perpetually lost. To understand why they did this leads us to the core of their thought. They attacked liberalism because it seemed to them the principal premise of modern society; everything they dreaded seemed to spring from it: the bourgeois life, Manchesterism, materialism, parliament and the parties, the lack of political leadership. Even more, they sensed in liberalism the source of all their inner sufferings. Theirs was a resentment of loneliness; their one desire was for a new faith, a new community of believers, a world with fixed standards and no doubts, a new national religion that would bind all Germans together. All this, liberalism denied. Hence, they hated liberalism, blamed it for making outcasts of them, for uprooting them from their imaginary past, and from their faith.”

The Conservative Revolution on liberalism

“The chief target of the conservative revolutionaries, however, was liberalism. All the vast and undesirable changes in the lives and feelings of Western man they blamed on liberalism. They sensed that liberalism was the spiritual and political basis of modernity and they sought to equate liberalism with Manchesterism, with the disregard of man’s spiritual aspirations, with the acceptance of economic selfishness and exploitation, with the embourgeoisment of life and morals. They ignored -or maligned- the ideal aspirations of liberalism, its dedication to freedom, the hospitality to science, the rational, humane, tolerant view of man. For what they loosely called liberalism constituted little less than the culmination of the secular, moral tradition of the West.

That liberalism was much more than an economic or political philosophy has been recognized for a long time. In the 1860’s already, Cardinal Newman said of liberalism: “It is scarcely now a party; it is the educated lay world . . . it is nothing else than that deep, plausible scepticism, which I spoke about as being the development of human reason, as practically exercised by the natural man.” Nearly a centruy later, Lionel Trilling said of America that liberalism was our “sole intellectual tradition.” It was liberalism in this larger sense that the conservative revolution fought, and by doing so, it could most easily make the leap from cultural to political criticism.”

C. B. Macpherson on democracy, liberalism and the market society

“So democracy came as a late addition to the competitive market society and the liberal state. The point of recalling this is, of course, to emphasize that democracy came as an adjunct to the competitive liberal society and state. It is not simply that democracy came later. It is also that democracy in these societies was demanded, and was admitted, on competitive liberal grounds. Democracy was demanded, and admitted, on the ground that it was unfair not to have it in a competitive society. It was something the competitive society logically needed. This is not to say that all the popular movements whose pressures resulted in the democratic franchise, and all the writers whose advocacy helped their cause, were devotees of the market society. But the bulk of them were. The main demand was for the franchise as the logical completion of the competitive market society.

In short, by the time democracy came, in the present liberal-democratic countries, it was no longer opposed to the liberal society and the liberal state. It was, by then, not an attempt by the lower class to overthrow the liberal state of the competitive market economy; it was an attempt by the lower class to take their fully and fairly competitive place within those institutions and that system of society. Democracy had been transformed. From a threat to the liberal state it had become a fulfilment of the liberal state.”