TELOSscope: The Telos Press Blog

On “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto”

In response to the publication of the “Euston Manifesto, in London,” a hard copy of which appears in Telos 136, a group of writers in the US co-authored “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto,” a link to which is posted at the top of the main page of this site. For technical reasons, discussion cannot take place there, but it is invited in the form of comments after this brief note.

The statement, like the original “Euston Manifesto,” speaks for itself as a restatement of liberal values in the current world situation. It describes the challenge posed by Islamic extremism as the key challenge of the age, and it calls for liberals not to cede this agenda to the conservative end of the political spectrum. This is where the situations in the UK and the US differ. In the UK, a Labor Prime Minister with extraordinary rhetorical and intellectual skills has been the proponent of an aggressive resistance to the jihadist forces increasingly described as “Islamo-fascist.” Politics in Blair’s England have had a distinctively different character than those in Bush’s America. The highly polarized situation in the US has encouraged parts of the liberal and left political spectrum to slide toward a neo-isolationism or what some call a return to McGovernism, with the potential for political marginalization. Meanwhile it has been the Republican President who has articulated a critique of a neo-totalitarian ideology and the imperative of a “war for civilization”—instead of a “clash of civilizations.” “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto” presents an argument for liberals to rise to the challenge of developing a foreign policy that includes consistent opposition to reactionary movements in the Middle East and that purposefully combines support for liberal-democratic values at home with advocacy of those values overseas as well.

The text displays clear signs of a range of opinions, from the center to the democratic left, with various judgments on current foreign policy. The authors agreed to disagree on some points in order to unite in this appeal. Nonetheless there remains plenty of room to continue discussion of those differences. You are invited to post your comments on the Euston texts here, or at the Euston site itself.

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