After the last couple of long entries, I feel like another shorter one is in order. Today we are talking about Political Science and a look at John Mearsheimer’s breakdown of Liberalism in the United States. We will be able to break this down relatively quickly as we have already discussed "Blue Babies in a Green World" and "The 21st Century Political Horizon" in former posts. Mearsheimer’s work and a series of lectures on Liberalism seem to only reinforce the value of an Integral view of politics and political history. (Quick disclaimer: development is not as discrete as the graphic may suggest, it is a wave of development creating gradations of being and understanding.)
Mearsheimer starts with two underlying questions that Liberalism is based upon.
Mearsheimer states that Liberalism is fundamentally based upon the answers being that we are individuals first who form social contracts and the notion that we cannot agree on first principles on the big questions to life.
As the basis for Liberalism these answers are really the upper right Orange quadrant perspective on things. This is a perspective which is focused on the individuality of people. Furthermore, it follows from this Orange perspective certain ideas which are inherent in liberalism itself. As each person can be seen in a 3rd person perspective they are seen as each having individual human rights. These rights are afforded to people regardless of race, sex, color, creed, nation, etc. This is also why Orange level industrial societies were the first societies in history to abolish slavery and to engage in the equal rights of men and women.
This level of perspective brings with it an important problem. If people are afforded their individuality and freedoms to believe differently, How do we create a Liberal society in order to prevent conflict between sometimes harshly contrasting individuals? In what Mearsheimer calls the Liberal solution to the problem, he presents the following aspects of Liberalism:
The Liberal Solution:
1) Inalienable Rights
3) The Night Watchmen State
The first is Inalienable rights of all individuals [Orange]. Growing from those individual rights there should secondly be tolerance of difference [Orange]. Thirdly, to ensure that individuals who have different beliefs can live in tolerance with each other there should be an overseeing authority of rules maintaining the balance of the game [Orange].
These three tend to frame the basis for understanding a Liberal ideology. However, what is also important to understand about this perspective is the spectrum of Liberalism that exists. This is really what Mearsheimer talks about in his lectures about Liberal Hegemony and what he mentions his book titled “Liberal Ideals and International Realities” is all about.
The focus on the individual and his or her inalienable rights turns liberalism into a universalist ideology.
If you focus on the social groups, not the individual, you end up with a particularist ideology, which is what you get with nationalism.
There are many ways to look at something and what you see will really depends upon your perspective. We can see the spectrum of Liberalism being a polar view or a developmental one. Mearsheimer basically puts it in a polar orientation. On one end of the spectrum exist the Liberal realists and on the other the Liberal Idealists; the more classical modus vivendi liberals to the more modern progressive liberals. (FYI – modus vivendi: an arrangement or agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully, either indefinitely or until a final settlement is reached. [Seems very pragmatically Orange to me])
Mearsheimer adds in a couple dimensions to consider as the differences between modus vivendi liberals and progressive liberals. He states he believes the differences lay within the negative rights versus positive rights and the desirability and efficacy of social engineering. For example, some believe in the right to liberty, the freedom from government intervention, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, the right to property – where the state exists solely to protect your freedoms. In contrast, others believe additionally in positive rights, where government oversight and regulation are a must to ensure the rights of people like the right to equal opportunity or public healthcare – where the state intervenes to level to playing field. Mearsheimer then states that if you believe in positive rights, you will tend to believe in the desirability of social engineering as the government needs to socially engineer the environment to enact positive rights.
Now after having this simple realist to idealist polarity then adding a couple dimensions to it already starts to add complexity which may be hard to follow. Thankfully we here are well versed in Integral. The four quadrants do a beautiful job of succinctly explaining the patterns Mearsheimer is talking about. What we do have to understand is that the difference between what ideology is believed and how it is believed.
What is seen is Orange level Liberalism but How Liberalism is seen through each quadrant is what creates the complexity.
The nature of Orange perspective is Liberalism at its core. Mearsheimer describes how Liberalism is enacted from each quadrant from Blue which first countered Orange in the Industrial revolution as we mention next, to Orange politics of corporate democracy, and finally to Green Liberalism which became much more impactful over the last several decades.
Mearsheimer states that liberalism began in America in the late 1800’s as a function of three things:
1) The industrial revolution
In the US in the late 19th and early 20th century there were huge industrial enterprises which had great affect and created the necessity for social engineering around common goods (i.e. labor unions, labor problems, and child labor problems)
“The original progressives in the United States were not Democrats, they were mainly ‘Republicans’. Herbert Hoover was a social engineer par excellence, Teddy Roosevelt was a social engineer par excellence.”
The Nation is organizing people for administrative reasons, economic reasons, and military reasons to help create one coherent nation of people loyal to the state. These loyal people then often demand something done for them in exchange for their national loyalty.
3) Huge wars that were fought
The government was needed for running and organizing the wars, though also to do social engineering after the wars to reward the people who fought (Mearsheimer references the G.I. bill).
What is important to remember is that these quadrants represent our individual and collective development. Over one hundred years ago, the most ‘left-leaning’ party was the Democratic party whose ideology at the time was the most developed for the time (for the general population). This means that they supported what were mostly Orange policies as Green simply wasn’t around enough to substantially impact politics. The ‘right-leaning’ Republicans were the party then which was more focused on the collective bottom quadrants as evidenced by Mearsheimer’s comments about two republican Presidents who were the ‘progressive’ social engineers of the time. They, although not embodying the most developed ideology of the time countered the standard corporate free market nature with social engineering as the ‘night watchmen state’.
As time has progressed, as we first discussed a couple years ago in “The 21st Century Political Horizon”, Green is now more of a political force. This now moves the most developed end of the ‘left-leaning’ people to a Green perspective. It has really taken the bi-polar nature of politics and created a third understanding. Where conservatives have not moved away from some core beliefs, they have updated with the times themselves, many republican politicians are more in-line with corporate liberal democrats today than they are with the religious conservatism of the past. Even the fracturing of the Democratic party these days and the ideological lines along which they are fracturing is very telling. There is a group of Democrats who wish to continue with corporate donors and crony capitalism for a continued corporate governing party of a ruling class [Orange]. And there is a group of Democrats who wish to focus on being funded by the people and work for the people to provide greater social engineering for the masses [Green]. These are the ideologies believed, though how they are believed is another story.
In short, How Liberalism is believed is what Mearsheimer is talking about when he separates out Realism, Nationalism, and Liberalism into three aspects of Liberalism as a whole. This would be how Blue, Orange, and Green respectively see and enact the ideology of Orange Liberalism.
What is also interesting, and we will dive into in a future post (Part 2) is then how Mearsheimer applies this to International Relations and how these ideologies and their implementations affect international policy.
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