Liberalism as Fortress and Prison

Issue Date April 2024
Volume 35
Issue 2
Page Numbers 152–156
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This response to Bryan Garsten’s essay on liberalism as refuge examines the risks that liberalism faces from within. The greatest of these risks is that liberalism loses its ability to promote moderation in human behavior. Liberalism is a culture of refuge, not of resurrection or liberation; it has a realistic and pessimistic vein that accepts human beings as they are and wants not to make them self-destructive or destructive of others. Yet if liberalism is a fortress equipped only for an external enemy (political or state power), it is bound to be weak and unprepared against its own internal threat to freedom; it may thereby become a prison. The goal of liberalism should be self-limitation.

About the Author

Nadia Urbinati is Kyriakos Tsakopoulos Professor of Political Theory at Columbia University. Her work focuses on modern and contemporary political thought and the democratic and antidemocratic traditions. Her most recent book is Me The People: How Populism Transforms Democracy (2019).

View all work by Nadia Urbinati