It's a curious trend among young intellectuals, especially as it relates to the political realm. Part of it has to do with the aversion to being categorized. Many of the new intellectuals pose as containing multitudes when it comes down to the antiquated subject of ideology -- ideology is for fools and fanatics, so yesterday in its Grand Movement silliness -- the new intellectuals entertain many diverse ideas, each assessed for pragmatic value and application in specific cases. To be guided by a set of principles is to be limited, trapped in a box of absolutism they see as irrelevant to the salmagundi of life and situations which require nuance and the careful, selective use of value-judgements, because value-judgements are like some poisons -- they can be useful in measured amounts or deadly in large doses.
To be sure, they have an ideology, but it's hidden in thick evasions which circle, dissect, massage, tease and tickle each issue with enough hip-irony to make the most grizzled cynic dizzy. The conclusions are never conclusive but the lingering, profound questions are profoundly telling. I will honor the new intellectuals' preference for mystic uncertainty by not calling them anything as base and insulting as "liberal," but it's obvious that modern liberalism has had its way with most, and not a few show the tell-tale signs of molestation. But it's not their parents' liberalism -- it's a progressive orientation which uses the tools of illusion to stand firmly conservative for the instance it takes to zig left and zag center, making positions disappear with nothing up their sleeves except the thin arms of a blogger. Where the position once stood now appears, out of nowhere, the unassailable doubt of knowing anything to start with, except their opponents can't possibly understand why they don't know.
On an issue like healthcare, the new intellectual can realize the dangers of government involvement (conservative), although they also realize government involvement is necessary (progressive), so the question is one of implementation and caution and the fact that the good it will do could possibly outweigh the problems associated with government involvement (modertate). The possibility of free market solutions is ignored completely as insufficient to a complex society.
This is the way new intellectuals avoid the issue of limited government and a free market -- it simply is not appropriate for serious consideration, except as one aspect of an overall State approach to dealing with complex problems. The "limited" aspect is considered as one tool in the game of illusions - for instance, government should be limited when it comes to socially accepted forms of freedom -- women's choice in abortion, detainees' rights in military interrogations, privacy, sexual orientation, tolerance of religions, workers against management, environmental restrictions, health concerns which burden society. But, otherwise, in matters of commerce, because wealthy capitalists are so powerful, government can not be limited unless it shirks its responsibility to protect the oppressed and disadvantaged.
The new intellectuals moderate their progressive tendencies depending on situations and whose rights are in question. The rich and powerful who've manipulated for their own gain what the State has provided for common use, who are not contributing to the common good, have less rights than the average person who's playing within the bounds of good citizenship. The new intellectuals see the State as responsible for managing rights in order to reach a measure of justice in society, assuring that the Haves don't have too much and the Have Nots have enough. The new intellectuals would never call for total central planning of the economy, but see no problem with oversight and management to make sure capital is not flowing in the wrong directions to recipients who will not use the capital for the common good. All wealth, after a certain amount, is considered community property to be distributed where needed to maintain social balance. The new intellectuals will tolerate individuals amassing wealth to a certain point, but any wealth which is deemed excessive should be taken to assist those who've been left behind and don't have the advantages of power.
What separates the new intellectuals from their predecessors is their unwillingness to build systems and claim an ideology. While, politically. the new intellectuals gravitate toward the Democrat Party, they resist partisanship and claim an open-minded pragmatism which supports that which works the best. The utilitarian value of a political direction is more important than the Party Line. It just seems that the Democrat Party has, so far, passed the utilitartian test. The new intellectuals are not populists, except among those parts of the population who've been alienated from American society because of gender, race or religion. The average middle class person is of no interest to the new intellectual unless they have dedicated their energy to a worthy cause such as empowering unions, fighting for environmental reform, supporting abortion or some other virtuous cause, but then it's not their middle class struggle that's being championed, but rather the cause they support -- they're basically seen as soldiers and honored as such. The new intellectuals are mostly suspicious of the average person because of their lack of education and what they might do politically if they become angry or fearful.
The new intellectuals are especially wary of political movements against the political class. The older intellectuals in the 60s supported the political movement against the establishment, but the new intellectuals support the establishment as long as it upholds modern liberal values, while being conservative enough to avoid radicalism. The new intellectual, above all else, detests extremes. There is always a moderate solution which should contain parts from each side to create a synthesis. Compromise is seen as the best way to make progress -- principles, while honorable in certain unique situations, are obstacles for the most part, because each issue is a snowflake, somewhat different than similar issues before.
Certainty is a sin, unless the certainty is in regard to the obvious Big Issues, then the certainty is based on the best we know, not absolute values, even though the certainty appears to be absolute -- but, who knows, the healthcare law could do more damage than good, but that's such a weak probability it's not worth much consideration. The new intellectuals know where to expend their energy.