I post this to argue against the false dichotomy between populism and corporate liberalism that is currently being perpetrated by social liberals in europeanised countries (inc the us) at the moment.
Post Brexit, I've been thinking along the lines of values and rightly or wrongly have come to the conclusion that Brexit values align with a more communitarian outlook whereas Bremain values align with a more liberal outlook. This points to the dynamic between communitarianism and liberalism with the former evoking a need for community continuity and stability underlied by democracy and resilience and the latter evoking a need for community change and growth underlied by technocracy and wealth.
However, the trouble with liberalism and its inherent need for change and growth is that it is ecologically and socially deconstructive which is a good thing if change and growth is required but also a bad thing since it is inherently unsustainable. Liberalism, whether social or economic, is fundamentally unsustainable because if all living things had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness then we would all starve or else be immobilised by moral constraint. This belies the fact that the sustainability of life is underpinned by life/death relationships but if not properly managed, these life/death relationships will inherently lead to unmanaged competition even if under the liberal framework of individual rights-based entitlements. In effect then, liberalism facilitates accumulation with few restrictions other than be nice to one another. This is why economic liberalism inherently leads to the formation of monopolies of power and consumerism and why social liberalism hollows out communities and leads to atomisation, loneliness and identity politics.
In this respect liberalism as a social policy tool has been a good thing in terms of deconstructing traditional communities based on entrenched patterns of patriarchy, gender inequality and class inequality and has been a good thing in terms of improving standards of living but this creative destructio. now needs to be rolled back in order to allow communities to recoalesce around virtue-based value systems and in particular, ones I argue that are designed to create a sustainable future and so need to be built on a platform of community democracy and community resilience.
This I think is the true nature of the Brexit backlash against the eu and the globalised liberalism that it supports. Unmanaged liberalism is inherently unsustainable and destructive and whilst it is a useful ideology to deconstruct and reform communities as a social change tool, at some point it is necessary to withdraw the use of this tool in order to allow communities to reformulate around different principles. It is therefore with irony that with regards the eu debate, the communitarians (brexiters) were using liberalism (democracy and the right to self-determination including border controls) to support their communitarian arguments whilst liberals (bremainers) were using communitarianism (cooperation and eu safeguards) to support their liberal arguments.
This highlights that liberalism functions as dynamic with communitarianism with the former being used to evoke change and growth through competition wheras the latter is used to evoke continuity and stability through cooperation. As such, yes the competition of liberalism is as important as the cooperation of communitarianism but each needs to be recognised for the benefits and losses they bring in order to manage social change and social continuity. In this respect, progress for its own sake and the constant social change and growth that liberalism brings through self-interested competition is damaging and unsustainable if it is not democratically consented to by all segments of society. In effect, by trying to bring half of a society unwillingly into the liberal mold whether through eu membership or through centralised government imposition that in effect manages eu policy is not only undemocratic but also exclusive of others that might wish for continuity and stability in order to build up decentralised democracy and resilience.
Liberalism does not allow for this regrounding of community values because it relies upon competition or creative destruction in order to constantly change and grow society or in international order terms, liberalism does not allow community cohesion because it requires communities to cooperate in order to compete in order to evoke change and growth on a global level.
In conclusion, without recognising that liberalism (individual liberty) forms an antogonistic relationship with communitarianism (social cohesion) and that the two need to be mediated according to democratic consensus then we are not only damaging our ecological and social relations through imposed competition (which arises because liberalism is unable to reconcile the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness when expanded to all living life-forms) but we are also damaging our relation with our self since when this competitive outlook is internalised,it begins to form a divided and antagonistic self which goes some way to explain the bigoted behaviour from both sides of the eu debate.
So whilst liberalism is an important socio-economic policy tool to evoke change and growth through the application of negative rights, the inherently competitive and unsustainable effects of liberalism need to be recognised as such and so in turn, it needs to be recognised that liberalism has as its complimentary opposite a communitarian perspective that evokes continuity and stability through the application of positive rights which allows diverse communities to cooperate on a platform of responsibility and resilience which is mediated by democracy in order that diverse communities can formulate their own identities and values. However, if over time this continuity and stability creates entrenched inequalities, then liberalism again becomes useful to creatively deconstruct these entrenched inequalities. As such liberalism and its inherently competitve outcomes and communitarianism with its inherently cooperative outcomes are social policy tools which can be applied to varying degrees to create a managed dynamic between change and continuity. So, if continuity (and sustainability) is required then communitarianism needs to come to the fore whereas if change (and unsustainability) is required then liberalism needs to come to the fore. At present I would argue that communitatrianism needs to come to the fore in order to ingrain communities with a sustainable development ethic based on stability which I argue would be best achieved by creating a global cooperative network of decentralised democratic communities which is underpinned by an ethos of decentralised community resilience.