There is an ideology – call it “namby pamby liberalism” – whose political goals are essentially procedural. NPL aims to establish an inclusive and transparent politics, the participants in which discuss (qua negotiate, not qua argue) their way towards a consensus on – and here NPL becomes a bit obscure – policies that, in some way, “promote” equality (of resources, or autonomy, or respect, or all of these goods, etc.). I say NPLs political goals are primarily procedural because its emphasis is on attaining (i) consensus (ii) through the procedures – transparent, inclusive dialogue – I mentioned. It is not desirable, by NPLs lights, to attain substantive equality by other means.
Here are a few questions about the nature, history and desirability of NPL. Nature: is it real? If so, have I fully characterized it, or just limned its constituent doctrines? History: when, and why, did NPL arise and gain prominence? Is it a contemporary – as in, past thirty years – slave morality, or have inclusion, transparency, consensus and undisciplined dialogue always had their partisans? Which historical episodes, or cultural pathologies (etc.), gave rise to NPL? Desirability: Are NPLs goals realistic? Are they goals we should care about? Does the fact – if it is a fact – that NPL has its origins in contemporary pathologies cast doubt on its wisdom?
Because my a priori views of NPL are no doubt unclear, I’ll close by noting that I find it pretty repulsive. I think its goals are unrealistic, and I think that’s a good thing, because it would only work in a society of dithering, slavish, conciliatory, hyper-bureaucratic eunuchs, i.e. a pretty boring place to live. I also think that my evaluation of NPL can be embraced by anyone on any part of the traditional left-right divide: from communists (obviously) to socialists to conservatives to libertarians. Finally, I suspect that NPL (as distinguished from some of the resilient sentiments that underlie it) is, with apologies to Hitler,* relativism without its tincture of metaphysics. It is where the postmodernists of yesteryear decamped after their ontological meltdown.
* Who, if Richard Ovary is to be believed, once described Christianity as “communism with a tincture of metaphysics.”