Book Talk: Liberalism Against Itself

Is it time to let go of Cold War-era liberalism? This is the argument that Professor Samuel Moyn makes in his new book, Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times. Moyn, a professor at Yale University and Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute, looks at the staying power of the version of liberalism that was constructed in the Cold War era. The book details Moyn’s view that this type of liberalism is devoid of a compelling positive vision and has actually impeded liberalism’s progress by giving fuel to the forces that are prone to restrict and dilute it. This most recent work builds upon his book from 2021, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, in which he documented how efforts in opposition to American wars have increasingly focused not on ending them, but on making them less brutal – but in doing so potentially has made them more endless.

To discuss the foreign policy implications of his new book’s thesis, as well as to reflect on how Humane’s core thesis has held up amidst the war in Ukraine, Moyn was joined by Elizabeth Beavers, Vice President for Public Affairs at the Quincy Institute. Their conversation was moderated by Anatol Lieven, QI’s Eurasia Program Director. Download the full webinar transcript here.


Elizabeth Beavers

Elizabeth Beavers is the Vice President for Public Affairs at the Quincy Institute and a national security legal scholar. In 2019, she launched a consultancy that has worked behind the scenes to strengthen leading national advocacy organizations in their work to lobby lawmakers, organize and train grassroots activists, and change the public narrative on matters of peace and security. Elizabeth also teaches remotely as an adjunct professor of counterterrorism law at the University of New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce School of Law.

Samuel Moyn

Samuel Moyn is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute and Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History at Yale University. He came to Yale from Harvard University, where he was Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law and Professor of History. Before this, he spent thirteen years in the Columbia University history department, where he was most recently James Bryce Professor of European Legal History. His areas of interest in legal scholarship include international law, human rights, the law of war, and legal thought, in both historical and current perspective.

Anatol Lieven (Moderator)

Anatol Lieven directs the Eurasia Program at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He was formerly a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and in the War Studies Department of King’s College London. He also served as a member of the advisory committee of the South Asia Department of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and of the academic board of the Valdai discussion club in Russia. He holds a BA and PhD in history and political science from Cambridge University in England.