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After Liberalism

After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State

Paul Edward Gottfried
Series: New Forum Books
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    After Liberalism
    Book Description:

    In this trenchant challenge to social engineering, Paul Gottfried analyzes a patricide: the slaying of nineteenth-century liberalism by the managerial state. Many people, of course, realize that liberalism no longer connotes distributed powers and bourgeois moral standards, the need to protect civil society from an encroaching state, or the virtues of vigorous self-government. Many also know that today's "liberals" have far different goals from those of their predecessors, aiming as they do largely to combat prejudice, to provide social services and welfare benefits, and to defend expressive and "lifestyle" freedoms. Paul Gottfried does more than analyze these historical facts, however. He builds on them to show why it matters that the managerial state has replaced traditional liberalism: the new regimes of social engineers, he maintains, are elitists, and their rule is consensual only in the sense that it is unopposed by any widespread organized opposition.

    Throughout the western world, increasingly uprooted populations unthinkingly accept centralized controls in exchange for a variety of entitlements. In their frightening passivity, Gottfried locates the quandary for traditionalist and populist adversaries of the welfare state. How can opponents of administrative elites show the public that those who provide, however ineptly, for their material needs are the enemies of democratic self-rule and of independent decision making in family life? If we do not wake up, Gottfried warns, the political debate may soon be over, despite sporadic and ideologically confused populist rumblings in both Europe and the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2289-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. vii-2)

    The 1996 U.S. election confirmed, if further substantiation was needed, the centrality of entitlement programs in American politics. The charge leveled repeatedly and effectively by President Bill Clinton was that his Republican rival Robert Dole would slash Medicare and other government allowances. Despite overwhelming public sentiment in favor of balancing budgets and shrinking government, as Gallup Polls revealed in Spring 1996, 53 percent of Americans opposed the cutting of social programs and 54 percent were against a significant reduction in military spending (this being a critical source of social entitlements and public sector jobs).¹ The efforts made by Dole and...

  2. CHAPTER ONE In Search of a Liberal Essence
    (pp. 3-29)

    The history of liberalism in the twentieth century has been one of growing semantic confusion. This has resulted from two interrelated problems. First, liberalism has not been allowed to keep any fixed and specific meaning. It has signified dramatically different and even opposed things at different times and places in the course of this century, from a defense of free-market economics and of government based on distributed powers to a justification of exactly the opposite positions. Self-described liberals in the Western world during the last seventy-five years have been nationalists, internationalists, socialists, libertarians, localists, bureaucratic centralizers, upholders of Christian morality,...

  3. CHAPTER TWO Liberalism vs. Democracy
    (pp. 30-48)

    A process that drew attention at the turn of the century, and even earlier, was the movement from a bourgeois liberal into a mass democratic society. Not all of those who observed this process made the same judgments about it. Some, including the European socialists and the founding generation of American social planners, welcomed democratization; others, such as Max Weber, considered it to be an inevitable outcome of capitalism, technology, and the spread of the electoral franchise. Still others, typified by Sir James Fitzjames Stephen (1829–1894), prominent jurist and a decidedly anti-egalitarian liberal, protested the unseemly haste with which...

  4. CHAPTER THREE Public Administration and Liberal Democracy
    (pp. 49-71)

    The association of public administration with liberal democracy is by now taken for granted. At the end of the twentieth century, this relation seems both natural and unavoidable. According to journalists and the authors of college textbooks, justice and freedom can only operate harmoniously in a liberal democratic welfare state. Almost all Western governments now embrace that idea, and these governments’ shared features have come to outweigh their cultural and institutional distinctions. In each of them professional administrators oversee the details of popular government, look after social services, regulate commerce, and provide for suitable transfers of income. In such welfare...

  5. CHAPTER FOUR Pluralism and Liberal Democracy
    (pp. 72-109)

    Already for some time now a debate has been going on about the “New Class” and its values. Typical of this discussion isThe Revolt of the Elites, in which Christoper Lasch relates America’s business and political leadership to a degenerate liberal culture. A collection of driven and deracinated achievers fixated on financial rewards and mental and physical well-being, Lasch’s New Class is seen to embody the materialist mentality of a late capitalist society. It resists community or any fixed identity, be it ethnic, religious, or gender, that does not offer material or sensual reward. It also scorns any appeal...

  6. CHAPTER FIVE Mass Democracy and the Populist Alternative
    (pp. 110-134)

    It has long been customary to relate calls for direct democracy and for expressions of the popular will to a revolt from below. Abundant political commentary exists for this view, and one can cite, among those who expressed it, Walter Lippmann, Irving Babbitt, Jose Ortega y Gassett, and the framers of the American Constitution. All such thinkers warned against giving “the people” their head, and they affirmed the need for educated minorities that could rein in popular passions and reckless appetites.

    As the second chapter makes clear, bureaucratic government was entirely acceptable to nineteenth-century liberals, providing that certain conditions were...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 135-142)

    The preceding study has been an exercise in what the sociologist Robert Merton called “specified ignorance.”¹ No attempt has been made to chart any supposedly inevitable future for the managerial state. Nowhere is it claimed that this regime is collapsing or that existing opposition to it will succeed in changing its structure significantly. The arbitrary definitions of liberalism and an intrusive pluralism notwithstanding, the Western managerial state and its defenders may well survive their encounters with populist challengers. As long as public administration is viewed as a material provider, its subjects may continue to acquiesce in its control of social...