A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism by Adam Gopnik

Peter Conrad in The Guardian:

Adam Gopnik cherishes the metropolitan exclusivity that populists hate.

Liberalism has become a tricky and even dirty term, which may be why it is banished to the subtitle of Adam Gopnik’s supremely intelligent but tortuous polemical essay. American leftwingers nowadays avoid the adjective and prefer to call themselves “progressive”.

And just what kind of “moral adventure” does Gopnik have in mind? Amoral options abound: liberality sounds spendthrift and libertinism is certainly decadent. Delacroix envisaged Liberty as a bare-breasted free spirit storming the revolutionary barricades; Bartholdi, designing the statue in New York harbour, dressed her in a ballgown, gave her a spiked crown and made her balefully scowl. Is she a permissive mistress or an antiquated matron whose torch looks like a bludgeon?

These are more than semantic queries, because Gopnik alerts us to an emergency. “Gangster-style authoritarianism” threatens the US, Russia, Hungary, Brazil, the Philippines and Saudi Arabia, while our own lying Brexiters prate about national grandeur and use “parliamentary proceduralism”, as Gopnik shrewdly says, to “corrupt and co-opt potential resistance”. Can liberal values be revived to save us?

More here.