Ryzard Legutko’s Critique of Western Liberalism

Crisis Magazine | 7/20/2018 | Jerry D. Salyer
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For quite some time now, American intellectuals have taken a particular interest in Poland. During the Cold War, the Polish people’s resistance to communism was held up as an example of fidelity, and Pope John Paul II’s leadership of the Church was taken to be a quintessential example of the Polish spirit. The honeymoon is now over, however, for even in traditionally pro-Polish circles there is an increasing discomfort with Poland’s unabashed celebration of her national identity, tenacious defense of sovereignty, and reluctance to be properly assimilated into the European Union. Yet given the reality of twenty-first-century politics, we might raise the question of who should be learning what from whom. Those of us who feel at home and comfortable with the direction the twenty-first-century Western elite has taken may feel free to lecture the Poles about their need to embrace the liberal democratic order.

Those of us who deem mob harrassment of politically-incorrect speech and the war on family to be features rather than bugs might do well instead to listen to Poles like Ryzard Legutko—a professor of philosophy, official in the late President Lech Kaczynski’s administration, and former anti-Communist dissident. Many are familiar with Legutko through his indispensable book The Demon In Democracy, a work that is worthy of sustained attention. As a matter of fact, though, Legutko’s widely-known comparison of liberal and Marxist attitudes is simply a continuation of themes raised in earlier essays, such as “What’s Wrong With Liberalism?”

Opinions - Freedoms - Role - Government - Conviction

might have divergent opinions on economic freedoms and the role of government […] they are united in their conviction that thinness of anthropological, moral, and metaphysical assumptions is the prerequisite for freedom and peace. Whoever would thicken such assumptions generates ideological conflicts and is believed to undermine the basis of peaceful cooperation and open the door to unjust discrimination.

In...
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