This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Liberalism and Social Teaching

Paul VI wrote of his period:

…we are witnessing a renewal of the liberal ideology. This current asserts itself both in the name of economic efficiency, and for the defense of the individual against the increasingly overwhelming hold of organizations, and as a reaction against the totalitarian tendencies of political powers. Certainly, personal initiative must be maintained and developed. But do not Christians who take this path tend to idealize liberalism in their turn, making it a proclamation in favor of freedom? They would like a new model, more adapted to present-day conditions, while easily forgetting that at the very root of philosophical liberalism is an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty.[1]

And so it seems that any contemporary discussion of ideology must give special focus to liberalism, because it represents the operating ideology of the present era. Yet we must be clear about what is meant by the word. As we have already stated above, when the Church refers to “liberalism” she is speaking of that ideology,

which believes it exalts individual freedom by withdrawing it from every limitation, by stimulating it through exclusive seeking of interest and power, and by considering social solidarities as more or less automatic consequences of individual initiatives, not as an aim and a major criterion of the value of the social organization.[2]

In CST, the Church is usually speaking directly of economic liberalism, which, as we remarked above, is also called capitalism. However, capitalism is only one expression of liberalism, and there are two others with which the Church has done battle in the past: religious liberalism and political liberalism. Recalling the definition of liberalism stated above, it should be obvious that just as capitalism represents the precise application of liberalism in the economic sphere, so the Reformation expressed the same principles in the religious sphere, while birth of secular government represents liberalism in the political sphere. We can identify these three liberal movements as personified by their respective thinkers: Adam Smith in the economic domain, Martin Luther in the religious, and John Locke in the political.

In fact, we could go so far as to say that CST in general represents a prolonged response to the errors of liberalism in the economic sphere.

[1] OA, 35.

[2] OA, 26.

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