The opposite of “liberal”

The opposite of “liberal” is not “conservative”. It’s “authoritarian”.

Likewise, the opposite of “conservative” is “radical”.

Continued opposition of the terms “liberal” and “conservative” in the public discourse is likely a carryover from 19th century British politics, where the major parties were the Liberal and Conservative parties, but what we call political “liberalism” and “conservatism” in the common parlance today are both rooted in classic liberalism. “Liberal” comes from the Latin liber, which means “free”, which is the term that came to distinguish modern philosophers such as Locke, Rousseau, and Jefferson.

In that sense, anarchism can potentially be seen as a “liberal” philosophy.

Think on that before you denounce someone as too “liberal” or “conservative”.


musing about political terminology and misc.

Too often in our reading of the Bible, we make an easy association between words like “liberty”, “justice”, and other words that have political associations in our time, as well as words with other economic and social implications, and the usages of such words in modern liberalized political discourse. This error is often compounded by a profound general lack of knowledge of the origins of modern political systems and how these words came to be used in the ways they are today.

I’m currently reading William Cavanaugh’s Theopolitical Imagination, and that’s only one of the several simple-yet-profound points he makes. The underlying premise seems to be that the act of political organization itself is based on an act of imagination (the act of imagination that convinces a “provincial farm boy” to become a soldier and go far away to kill people he doesn’t know, so provoked by the concept of mystical communion set within arbitrary national borders and a constructed sense of common history and national mythology), whereas Christians are called to be a people of a different politic, a politic shaped by the imagination of the Eucharist which is deeply subversive to this modern nation-state imagination. It’s pretty good so far, I’m about 50 pages in (so almost halfway done – it’s a short book).

I have a shelf of books I call my “introduction to postmodern- and radical-Christianity” section. It includes books such as Dale Brown’s Biblical Pacifism, Vernard Eller’s Christian Anarchy, J. Richard Middleton’s The Liberating Image, and several other books that I feel provide good introductory discussion to topics pertinent to postmodernism, radical thought, and the Christian faith. One thought that’s percolating in the back of my mind is the possibility of doing a series at some point where I go through each of these books – that would be quite a lengthy project though. Perhaps a series of reviews would be more manageable.

I still don’t have my computer back, so updates will probably be few and far between for the time being.