Liberalism's fatal flaw

Machiavelli, Kautilya and how religion subverts liberalism

We tend to think of liberal democracies as secular. But religious ideas are increasingly gaining power over our politics. Populist leaders are deified, and religious beliefs are informing key political debates like abortion and gay marriage. Stuart Grey argues that Renaissance philosopher Nicolo Machiaveli and Ancient Indian thinker Kautilya explain how supposedly religion-free liberal politics became coopted by theology.


In modern secular democracies such as the United States we generally congratulate ourselves for not having a theologically based form of governance—but is this a smokescreen? Historically, liberal democracies with citizen equality and the rule of law were implemented in response to the arbitrary whim of elites, be they religious, economic or aristocratic. In many Western nations, the rule of law, legitimised through the free consent of the governed, was established in response to the wars of religion in Europe during the medieval and early

Continue reading

Enjoy unlimited access to the world's leading thinkers.

Start by exploring our subscription options or joining our mailing list today.

Start Free Trial

Already a subscriber? Log in

Join the conversation