Post-Liberalism on Social Media
Updated: Mar 12, 2022
Society is built on assumptions we make about each other and how the average citizen will behave in a given circumstances. Whether we are discussing a culture or a country, we know that a group of people cannot long survive as a group if they do not share the same goals and beliefs on some level. Recent events have revealed a troubling schism in the world, a stark realization that our neighbors may not be as dedicated to the same principals as us. Society, at least for the last 100 years, has been built upon a liberal world order which is not being threaten by what we can describe as post-liberalism.
Defining our Terms
To understand what post-liberalism is, we must first understand what it is not. To begin, we look at its seeming anthesis, liberalism. It is important to understand we are not discussing Liberals, usually Democratic or Progressive politicians, but the basis principles under which much of the modern world is built.
Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support individual rights (including civil rights and human rights), democracy, secularism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and a market economy . In short, a belief in a sovereignty of the soul, the freedom of the individual to do and say and believe whatever they want as long as it does not infringe on the beliefs of others. The underlying assumption of the philosophy is that individual happiness and fulfillment are paramount.
Neoliberalism is an outgrowth of Liberalism. Neoliberalism refers to market-oriented reform policies such as eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers and reducing, especially through privatization and austerity, state influence in the economy . The end result of these policies is intended to be greater liberty for those living within the system. This greater liberty is meant to further individual happiness and fulfillment as well.
In contrast, post-liberalism believes that putting the society before the right and desires of individuals is the only way to move forward. Post-liberals argue for the revival of tradition, virtuous aristocracy, corporatism, and small-scale socialism. We see these trends across the international stage with voters turning away from globalization, a rise of isolationist nationalistic policies, and a prevalence to turn against classical liberal ideas of freedom of speech when individuals disagree with a speaker. Coupled with the triumph of patriotic strongmen in countries as diverse as India, Russia, Japan or the Philippines, we clearly see there is a global backlash against the ruling liberal establishment .
Post-Liberalism On Social Media
It is impossible to say whether post-liberalism grew out of social media or whether social media simply reveals it for us to see. Regardless, no one can deny the link.
Brexit, the largest example we have of a rejection of globalization and its neoliberal roots, would not have been possible without social media. The referendum was in many ways a meme made manifest, a viral idea which grew through Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms.
No matter your thoughts on President Trump, one cannot deny that his popularity was fueled by Twitter and that his ideas were very much in line with post-liberalism. Protectionism, isolationism, and a desire to roll back free speech protections to allow greater liberal and slander liability for individuals and corporations were all hallmarks of his policy.
More broadly, what is cancel culture but a manifestation of post-liberal ideas? An individual says something that you disagree with so you try to 'cancel' them; to get them to lose their job or become a social outcast or to generally suffer. We also see this in speech codes in many college campuses which try to limit and punish free expression.
What Can We Do About It?
The Roman Republic did not fall in a day. It didn't even fall in a year! It took almost 100 years for the then 400 year old republic to collapse into an empire.
A fight breaks out at the voting booth so, the next time, one side brings clubs to defend themselves. The party that got clubbed shows up to the next election with knives. Tensions escalate. Unwritten rules of society are tossed aside in the name of "what about-ism", the idea that when someone points our your own transgression you ask "what about" the transgression of an opponent without addressing your own mistakes. Without anyone even realizing what was happening a dictatorship formed and the government was wrestled for the people. Even then, the dictator only held power for a year or two before turning it back over to the Senate. Unfortunately, this new precedent had already been set allowing another to take power and not give it up willingly.
There is no single solution for how to combat post-liberal philosophy just as there is no single cause for it. As economic inequality grows and people feel less secure they will turn to whatever and whomever they believe has the best interest of them and their loved ones at heart.
It is an individual responsibility to combat these post-liberal ideas and defend the principles upon which the world order is built. Freedom of thought, speech, religion, and association. In the same vein we must be able to disagree without becoming disagreeable for doing so will only harden the hearts and minds of those who oppose the fundamental assumptions underpinning society.