Can Liberalism Survive in an Empire of Lies?
Stephen HolmesWalter E. Meyer Professor of Law at New York University
Auditorium Ivan Pictet
Maison de la paix, Geneva
The rough distinction between truth and falsehood, regardless of positive or negative consequences for political factions and communities, was an essential pillar of classical liberalism. Recently, this distinction has been seriously eroded in the U.S. by the partisan slogan of “fake news” used to discredit honest reporting and, as a consequence, to distract attention from shameless presidential mendacity. Political lying is perennial, has many purposes, and can sometimes even be justified. This lecture will focus on the newest and most eye-catching forms of political lying (especially in the United States and the Russian Federation) that are arguably unprecedented because based on a denial of the political relevance of the very distinction between truth and falsehood. Does classical liberalism provide an adequate political philosophy for an age when Post-Truth rules the public mind?
Stephen Holmes is the Walter E. Meyer Professor of Law at New York University, and an expert on the evolution of liberalism and antiliberalism in Europe. He has written extensively on the history of political thought, democratic and constitutional theory, state building in post-Communist Russia, and the war on terror, and is the author of The Cost of Rights: Why Liberty Depends on Taxes (1998), The Matador’s Cape: America’s Reckless Response to Terror (2007), and The Beginning of Politics (2017).
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