Is Liberalism Obsolete? What does this question mean? What are we really trying to get at, when we ask this question? Let us take note that there are two rather expansive and indeterminate words in this question; indeterminate, because of the way the question has been asked. Namely, the words Liberalism, and obsolete. It is out of fashion these days to begin a philosophy talk with definitions, but I cannot help but do so in this case, because otherwise you will have no idea what I am asking you to agree to in this argument.
Eleven years ago, I didn’t understand the Haldane position, because I was ignorant. Eleven years ago, I thought I understood the Hitchens position, because he made me feel good when he spoke. Working my way through a masters in philosophy eleven years later, I can say that I (mostly) understand them both. And frankly, in the light of that wisdom (such as it is), Hitchens is embarrassing.
The following are things that are presently being informally labelled “religions” by various commentators: Environmentalism (Michael Shellenberger, “Apocalypse Never” ) Feminism (Janice Fiamengo, “Daughters of Feminism” ) Woke Ideology (James Lindsey, “New Discourses” ) Anti-Racism (John McWhorter, “Talking Back, Talking Black” ) There are probably others, but these are the ones I am aware of. Each of these has component features analogous to features of established religions, it is true.
During the collective neurosis that is this coronavirus quarantine, it has become customary in the Anglo-American west, to stand outside at 8PM once per week and bang pots in gratitude for the work of the various healthcare institutions of our countries. This, I think, has implications that extend far beyond the annoyance of watching everyone marching mindlessly in unison for reasons they barely understand. When I was a boy growing up in Chicago in the 70’s and 80’s, attending church on Sunday was a near-ubiquitous phenomenon.