As John Milbank has pointed out, classical political liberalism in the shape of John Locke and David Hume has a pessimistic view of humans as self-interested, fearful and greedy, while the romantic liberalism of Rousseau takes the opposite view, seeing people as free and innocent but society as corrupting. British (and American) liberalism premised on Lockean pessimism is concerned with the balancing and checking of power, the Rousseau-an approach abolishes the problem of power by assuming, in the general will, that everyone has the same interests….
It is sometimes said that the story of politics since the fall of Margaret Thatcher is that the right won the economic argument and the left won the social argument. But in more recent times both of those victories seem tainted; reflecting the limits of the two liberalisms.
[In fact, most people]… are certainly not the free-floating individuals of liberal ideology. Rather they are rooted in communities and families, often experience change as loss and have a hierarchy of moral obligations. Too often the language of liberalism that dominates public debate ignores the real affinities of place and people. Those affinities are not obstacles to be overcome on the road to the good society; they are one of its foundation stones. People will always favour their own families and communities; it is the task of a realistic liberalism, a postliberal politics, to strive for a description of nation and community that is open enough to include people from many different backgrounds, without being so open as to become meaningless…
Read it all (Hat tip: The Browser)