TO THOSE whose minds are not liberated, wars, revolutions, and radical movements will never bring freedom but only an exchange of one kind of slavery for another. That is one of the most tragic lessons of the twentieth century.
Liberation of the mind is no panacea, but without it angry rhetoric and cruel bloodbaths are of no avail, and tyranny endures. Most of those who see themselves as radicals and revolutionaries still cling to decrepit ideas like justice and equality and depend on guilt and fear, as our fathers and mothers did. What we need is a new, autonomous morality.
Those who hoped that the death of God would spell freedom from guilt and fear were wrong. The breakdown of religion as the great authority in moral matters has not brought us autonomy. It has brought us a variety of substitutes for religion. The quest for these surrogates is rooted in a fear that has hitherto had no name.
This book begins with an analysis of that deep fear. The first part of the book deals with what we should leave behind, the last part with what lies beyond. Liberation is a movement toward a goal: autonomy. Being autonomous and being liberated is the same thing. The first chapter explains the meaning of autonomy by showing what lures or strategies must be resisted to achieve it. Then the attack on justice and on guilt and the demonstration of the need for alienation develop a new conception of autonomy – a new integrity – a new morality.