Some thoughts on the crisis of liberalism—and how to fix it


BREXIT is such an all-consuming process for the British—at once a drama, a muddle and a mess—that it is easy to forget that it is part of something bigger: a crisis of liberalism in the west. A growing number of countries have had their own equivalents of Brexit: Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election; the election of a populist government in Italy; the Catalan revolt in Spain; the rise of populist authoritarians in Russia, Hungary, Poland and, to some extent, India; the simmering rage against what Viktor Orban calls “liberal blah blah” in the intellectual dark-web. The list will be a lot longer by the time Brexit has been completed.

It’s worth taking a break from the ins-and-outs of Brexit to look at the bigger picture, partly because the bigger picture helps us to understand Brexit better (NB: there’s more going on here than BBC bias or Russian gold) and partly because, if we are to bring the country back together once we leave the EU, we need to understand the causes of popular discontent. This post will try to address two questions—why is liberalism in such a mess? And how can it get out of it? But first a definition: what does this slippery word mean?

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