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Liberalism versus Conservatism in Great Literature, Lionel Trilling–Part Two

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September 13, 2016

If you have not read Part One of this series, posted last Tuesday, scroll down and read it and join the conversation.

So, to restate the concluding question from last time, If the only intellectual tradition available to us in early 21st century America is liberalism, what might be the danger

If liberalism today faces no serious disciplined intellectual opposition, what might become of the vibrancy that has characterized liberal thought over the last many decades?

Or, why hasn’t liberalism, if it is such a powerful force at the intellectual level, made greater progress in influencing the general population, even as more and more of us are earning college degrees and even advanced graduate degrees?

Back to the conservative political movement itself for a few minutes

If such a powerful political movement as is clearly about us today cannot sustain itself intellectually, what might be the consequences?

Try this idea out from Lionel Trilling, an idea not just about his own time but as a general observation still relevant for our times:

“It is just when a movement despairs of having ideas that it turns to force, which it masks in ideology?” (The Liberal Imagination xvi) Well?

Why not start a conversation in the comments box? But if not, think seriously about these questions as part of living the literary life.

Paul Varner

 

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