Liberalism “is now fading out of the world,” Russell Kirk proclaimed in 1955 in the liberal Catholic periodical Commonweal. “And I believe that the ephemeral character of the liberal movement is in consequence of the fact that liberalism’s mythical roots always were feeble, and now are nearly dead.” For Kirk, and many Christian Humanists of the twentieth century, liberalism had been an evanescent philosophy. It had taken for granted the virtues from the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions without recognizing their historical or cultural prerequisites, and it had envisioned society as beginning in a social contract. Neither practice, thought Kirk, could give a liberalism any real staying power. Therefore, he argued, “Liberalism is expiring under our very eyes for lack of the higher imagination.”1 For Kirk, it would be hard to find something more damning to write. Without imagination, Kirk noted in his many writings, the person and civilization became barren and meaningless, a wasteland of the inhumane and the corrupt. “The modern ‘liberal’ world, as I have come to understand it,” Kirk wrote in The New York Times in 1956, “is making its way straight toward what C. S. Lewis calls ‘the abolition of man’—toward a society devoid of reverence, variety and the higher imagination, in which ‘everyone belongs to everyone else,’ in which there is collectivism without community, equality without love.” Most liberals, Kirk continued, want each man, woman, and child to “submit to a regime of life in death, a colorless mediocrity and monotony in society, an emptiness of heart, a poverty of imagination.”2
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