The 18th century Parisian cafe was an incubator for the liberal tradition as it was before liberalism became a politically-loaded and dirty word. The cafe brought people together to exchange ideas, talk, connect, argue, debate, and learn about humanity, empathy, and humility outside the control of the state; a place where civil society trumped tribal impulse.
We are a far more humane people today compared to what we've been, despite the astounding level of cruelty in the headlines every day. Laws still rule the day.
Yet, many question whether liberalism can survive the rise of nationalist leaders from Hungary to the United States and the illiberal ideas they promote; some 2020 presidential candidates are calling for revolution. Can the long history of the liberal tradition teach us something about this current moment?
- Adam Gopnik - Staff writer for The New Yorker since 1986. He’s the author of many books, including At The Strangers Gate: Arrivals In New York and most recently, A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventures of Liberalism
Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show. which originally aired on May 15, 2019.