A disquieting notion
Pabst’s book reveals the tragedy that is at the heart of liberal politics, and perhaps at the heart of politics in general. “Societies are freer and fairer, especially for women and minorities,” says Pabst, “However, liberal gains also entail losses, in particular the progressive erosion of the social bonds and civic ties on which vibrant democracies depend for trust and cooperation.” Liberalism has “provided greater opportunities for many and afforded some protection against the worst violations of the freedom of some by the freedom of others…. Economic liberalism has also undermined the civic and social bonds of association on which functioning markets and democratic debate depend.”Thus Pabst concludes, “The liberation from old bonds makes us richer but more divided, freer but lonelier.”
Liberalism’s positing that we can desire without limit, that we can control and manipulate nature to our own ends, that by pursuing our own selfish interests somehow the public good will magically emerge, tempts us toward the belief that no hard choices need ever be made. To the point central to Pabst’s fine work, we wish to avoid the disquieting notion that perhaps strong communities and maximization of material well-being are at odds with each other.