Viktor Orbán’s landslide victory for a new term as Hungarian prime minister has excited conservatives around the world, but within that political spectrum there is a growing undercurrent that celebrates more. It is the one that brings together the defenders of a break in the alliance between conservatism and economic liberalism, two currents of thought which since the Cold War have come together in several Western countries to oppose a common enemy, communism.
Recently, intellectuals and supporters of this departure have decided to intensify the dissemination of their ideas through the publication of articles, greater activity on social networks and by launching sites such as Post-liberal ordera term that refers to what they mean: to strengthen a right that comes out of liberal dogmas, which would make it free to use a large and strong state in favor of the defense of the family institution, Christian values and other conservative agendas.
Why did liberalism start to bother?
The defenders of this doctrine in construction start from the pessimistic observation that the conservatives are in the process of losing the war of cultures, and if everything continues like this, they will die out or will have to be content with insignificance. . The cause of this progressive failure would be the alliance with economic liberalism which, for them, was the only one to benefit from the partnership. After all, today the communism that brought them together is no more than a ghost of what it once was, the West is richer than before, but moral values and family – a priority for conservatives – languish. In part, they explain, this is due to liberalism’s veto over the use of state power to promote a certain moral worldview, since for most contemporary liberals the ideal state is minimal and neutral.
While these two camps of what is often called the right clash, the new version of the enemy that brought them together, the progressive left, spends neither its time nor its energy on the dilemma, but takes advantage of the confusion to impose both its economic vision and its cultural vision across the State, whether in the appointment of judges and prosecutors committed to their causes, in the equipment of the public service, in the ideological indoctrination in the schools and universities and in the approval of anti-Christian legislation. They complain that the current left does this even cynically, claiming that the state is neutral, but acting as if it is not.
Hungary as a model
There is no record that Orbán identifies himself as “post-liberal”, but his administration is the most admired and cited as a model by representatives of this new right, especially after the departure of Donald Trump from the world stage. . Gladden Pappin, for example, who is a professor of public policy at the University of Dallas and one of the co-founders of the postliberal Order, wanted to be in Budapest to follow the Hungarian elections. He celebrated the result with a text entitled A Fidesz Earthquake Shakes Europe, in reference to Orbán’s party.
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s impressive victory by an eighteen-point margin, Pappin said the slogan adopted by the progressive opposition, “Let’s bring Europe here to Hungary”, was implausible even for Budapest, but “seemed insane for a small-town mayor to bring to the Hungarian countryside.” He concludes by pointing to the ignorance and disconnection of progressive forces from the Hungarian people: “The rhetoric of the opposition is designed to work well on English-language Twitter, but Western commentators are not voters in this election”.
The analysis echoes Trump’s successful campaign in 2017, when his speeches and agendas favored low-income workers, the humble, the cultivators of traditional values who saw their jobs threatened by waves of immigration and their customs. . to be ridiculed by identity agenda activists. It is at this stage that post-liberals approach publics that were once favorites of the left, but which in recent decades have lost space and attention, such as working people.
Against a libertine left and a libertarian right
In post-liberal ideas, agendas such as the maintenance of jobs in public companies or the proximity between the State and the unions are perfectly reconcilable with what they consider essential: a State which recognizes the value of religion , authentic local culture and protects the family institution from social engineers who try to destroy it.
At least in the United States, this reordering of priorities has opened up the possibility of alliances considered unusual by many. This is the case of the recently launched digital magazine Compactwhich brought together as founders the conservative journalist Sohrab Amari, writer, former editor of the newspaper New York Post and the wall street journal; Mathew Schmitz, also a curator and former editor of the Catholic website first thingsand Edwin Aponte, who declares himself a Marxist and was one of the founders of the left-wing site The bellows. In the letter presenting the project, they claim to defend a “strong social democratic state that defends the community – local and national, family and religious – against a libertine left and a libertarian right”.
By 2019, by the way, Amari and Schmitz had already signed together, along with other intellectuals who share his revolt against liberalism, the manifesto that best sums up the dilemma, at least in the North American context. Entitled Against the dead consensus (Against the dead consensus), the text published on several right-wing sites was addressed in particular to the leaders of the Republican Party, stressing that it was no longer possible to return to the old dominant consensus on the acronym until, in a clear message to Republican politicians who opposed Trump’s way of governing and didn’t even want him to be the party’s nominee. In the text, the authors state that “the old conservative consensus feigned respect for traditional values, but failed to delay, let alone reverse, the eclipse of enduring truths, family stability, community solidarity and many other problems”.
For the end of the neutral state
To justify their argument, the post-liberals challenge ideas given as immutable by modern liberal democracies, such as the neutrality of the state, the vision of law as a simple instrument of peace and the exaggerated separation between politics and religion. The best possible society, for them, is not one where an impartial state confines itself to protecting individual rights and freedoms, but one where the political order facilitates the “good life”, to use an expression of Greek philosophy, notoriously well-loved by the popularizers of post-liberalism.
The professor of political philosophy at the University of Notre-Dame, Patrick J. Deneen, stands out as one of the theoreticians most quoted by the partisans of this new trend, in part because of the enormous impact caused by his book ‘Por that liberalism has failed?’ (Ed. Âyiné), published in 2019 and translated into several languages. He explains that for post-liberals, the state should not refuse to make value judgments, simulating a total neutrality that is simply impossible. Instead, he argues that the ideal state should guarantee its citizens the conditions that guarantee them, for example, a stable marriage, a healthy environment for children, a religious community and a coherent cultural heritage.
The means of achieving these goals in practice have been frequently suggested by proponents and sympathizers of post-liberalism in their writings. One of the most committed to this task is Nathan Blake, a researcher at think thank you Center for Ethics and Public Policy.
For the Brazilian public, much more accustomed to a large state than North Americans, some proposals resemble what we have known for decades, since the government of Getúlio Vargas, such as maternity and paternity leave or family wages. There are also those that are taken for granted by any Conservative government, such as only appointing judges with notoriously pro-life and pro-family positions in the higher courts.
Others, on the other hand, are more daring, such as the idea of obliging pornographic sites to set up effective systems for verifying the age of users; devote at least 5% of GDP to family support and promotion policies (exactly as Orbán does in Hungary); personal tax exemption for fathers and mothers of large families; grants for grandparents caring for grandchildren up to two years of age; flexible working hours for parents of young children; family tourism labels or certificates for tourist establishments that favor customers with children, as well as measures aimed at reducing the cost of family life, such as free school supplies or subsidized holiday programs for disadvantaged students .
It is in this absolute priority given to the family that the post-liberals differ from the conservative nationalists. Although they are united in the idea of a strong state, with a predilection for the protectionist economy and they are quite cautious in welcoming immigrants, many nationalists today tend to leave moral issues in the background. An example is the position of Marine Le Pen, candidate for the French presidency and leader of local nationalism. She vigorously opposes the interference of the European Union in the country’s decisions, but declares herself in favor of abortion and keeps a relative distance from religious questions.
In this country, the post-liberals prefer Marion Maréchal, the young former deputy and niece of Marine Le Pen who broke up with her aunt after the 2017 elections, precisely because of Le Pen’s hesitant positions on issues such as defense. design life and the LGBT agenda. In the 2022 elections, Maréchal declared his support for Éric Zemmour, his aunt’s rival on the right.