18 January 2004

Fr. Jape on liberalism

Writing for the brand new journal, The New Pantagruel, Fr. Gassalasca Jape, S.J., interacts with Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, of First Things, and David Walsh, of the Catholic University of America, on the liberal project in particularly the United States. Fr. Jape's reflections are the latest round in a long-running debate among Christians concerning the prospects of recovering something from the ruins of a decadent late liberalism. Fr. Neuhaus is, as I have called him, a liberal critic of liberalism. He and Walsh accept the "betrayal of liberalism" thesis: that the contemporary "choice-enhancement state," which expands the state beyond its normative competence in the interest of subsidizing all manner of choices, represents a betrayal of the early liberalism of, say, John Locke, Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson. Fr. Jape represents the other side in this debate, which holds that contemporary liberalism, with its fixation on choice for its own sake, is the true heir of Locke, Smith and Jefferson. Those in the latter camp understand better that liberalism is not simply a neutral system or arrangement of institutions serviceable to a variety of ends; it is, rather, a spiritual force rooted in its own religiously-based view of the good life and the place of politics within that life.

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