Frankly, I had never heard the word “illiberalism” before I read Prof. Thomas Main’s new book The Rise of Illiberalism.
I suppose anyone could have imagined what the word meant. The polar opposite of liberalism, right? But when I saw that Main was (understandably) expressing fear over illiberalism’s prodigious spread during the 21st century, imploring the government to take measures to control it, I wondered: What would the iconic Justice Brandeis, who heralded the “marketplace of ideas,” have thought about government action intended to deter or even stop the conspiracy theorists of the New Right? Main’s robust reportage of this ideological pandemic of sorts begins in his volume at the outskirts of Charlottesville and takes us through the dark depths of Internet hate speech. And yet if, as Brandeis posited, the answer to bad ideas is more ideas, wouldn’t a frontal attack on illiberalism fly in the face of what most readers here would see as liberal democratic thought?