The is a pretty good summary.
I’ve never seen post-liberals, reactionaries or White Nationalists bring up the true origins of cultural liberalism: the immoralists and decadent aesthetes of late 19th century Europe. It was the avant-garde that made transgression against bourgeois moral norms fashionable.
The following excerpt comes from Henry F. May’s book The End of American Innocence, 1912-1917:
“It was not the fervent romanticism of an earlier period, though it drew on the romanticism of all times. The new believers in art did not expect, as Coleridge had for instance, that intuition would transfigure and illuminate the universe. They did not hope, like Ruskin, that beauty would ennoble society. Art did not necessarily lead to to any truth but its own; there might not be any other kind of truth for it to lead to. Aesthetic values, down to the last delicate nuance, must be cultivated for their own sakes, desperately, without regard to ordinary morality, if necessary at the cost of madness and despair.
In 1857, the same year that Flaubert published Madame Bovary, caricaturing the old romanticism, Charles Baudelaire inaugurated the new with Flowers of Evil, the bible of the antimoralists. Unlike many of his followers, Baudelaire meant what he said and was superbly able to say it. In his famous invocation he recognized as the worst of mental monsters, the most likely source of horror and destruction, an apparition fully familiar to Europeans in the nineteenth century but hardly glimpsed in busy America: Ennui.
Baudelaire and his followers made a cult of Edgar Allan Poe, admiring in him exactly the qualities which American critics continually deplored: his febrile intensity, his love of exotic and bizarre subjects, his rejection of modern civilization, and his insistence that “Poetry” was independent of moral judgment. For three quarters of a century after Baudelaire, a series of schools of poets moved further into many kinds of moral and technical experiment. French verse, fertile, various, and brilliant, experimental in both form and point of view, became the single most importance influence on Western Literature. Its great figures, particularly Mallarmé, Verlaine, and Rimbaud, became the heroes and martyrs of the aesthetic cause in all countries except America. These poets, different as they were, had in common at least a new kind of devotion to art, a dedication so proud, so intense, and so exclusive, that it seemed simply insane to surviving believers in material progress.
Toward the end of the century European aestheticism, or part of it, branched off the main road into decadence. The distinction is not precise; perhaps it is only one of seriousness and intensity. Defying conventional morality became, instead of a desperate necessity for a few, a fashion. Conscious artificiality, deliberate cultivation of the perverse and excessive were the hallmarks of decadence. Perhaps the epitome was the overrated, languid, black-mass foolishness of Joris-Karl Huysmans. Even matter-of-fact England had her amoral aesthetes; from Victorian preachers of beauty the path led through Swinburne to the brief vogue of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley. Witty and courageous, the London decadents were fundamentally trivial and imitative. When the public learned that Wilde had defied its standards in action as well as words, the movement collapsed. On the continent, however, aestheticism experimented, even the extremes of decadence continued in vogue. Everywhere in Europe the picture of the artist, drawn by himself, was familiar to the bourgeoisie.
The revolt against nineteenth-century progress and morality took a more vigorous form in Germany with Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche, who continually prophesied that he would be misunderstood, has been made into many things, including an old-fashioned idealist in disguise and a modern naturalist. If he was an idealist, the disguise was a good one; if he was a naturalist, his kind of naturalism was new in Western culture. God, he announced, was dead, which was not at all the same thing as saying that He had never existed. Science was dying, too, and intelligent men, having realized that it could never get very close to reality, were abandoning it.
Nietzsche, in contrast to his predecessor Schopenhauer, and in contrast to the antimoralist aesthetes, was called an optimist, a great yea-sayer. Again, if he was an optimist, it was in his own terms only. Progress, utility, reason, democracy – the things on which modern civilization prided itself, were to Nietzsche symptoms of sickness and approaching death: joy and health lay only in the self-fulfilling and self-transcending individual. For him there was hope, but only if he boldly threw aside the restraints of Christian morality. The abandonment of outward cruelty and selfishness had been a dreadful error, a source of inward sickness, the result of a plot by the feeble and cunning against the strong and beautiful. Only by moral revolution, by a reversal of values, could man recover tragedy, his only real kind of happiness.
In his long and tortured search for a new god to replace the old one, Nietzsche considered and rejected art as well as science. The true principle of reality was the will to power, present in all things and reaching its highest form in the noble, overcoming, superman. Thus Nietzsche cannot be classified with aesthetes except in a very broad sense. What he had in common with them was their enemy: modern culture. In this sense Nietzsche’s “joyful wisdom” was a part of the same great turn in the history of European thought.
In the period of its apparent triumph, the modern world and its values – humanitarian progress, comfort, and conventional morality, values often identified with America – were violently rejected by scattered groups of intellectuals. The true morality, these sad protesters agreed, lay in experience and its expression for their own sake, not in success but in tragedy and transcendence.”