“We begin a great conservative reaction. We attempt to roll back the Reformation in its political phases.”
– George Fitzhugh, 1863
Patrick Deneen’s new book Why Liberalism Failed has continued to cause a stir:
“What if the anxieties, tensions, and ill feelings of contemporary politics were not a departure from liberalism but its culmination? That’s the central claim of Notre Dame political theorist Patrick J. Deneen’s bold and provocative new book, Why Liberalism Failed. By “liberalism,” Deneen does not mean merely the political program of the Left. Instead, he is referring to the broader liberal order conceived of by John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, John Dewey, and others: the quest for individual autonomy and the transformation of nature in order to realize individual ambitions. He claims that this order has led to socioeconomic hyper-stratification, political alienation, the evisceration of education, and ecological devastation. …”
“The capacity for self-criticism used to be a signature characteristic of the liberal mind, but clearly liberal introspection isn’t what it used to be. In looking for explanations for the 2016 election, outlets like the Huffington Post and National Public Radio are perfectly willing to consider Russian hackers, Alt-Right conspiracies, and for all I know albino Opus Dei operatives. What they are less willing to consider is the possibility that their defeat is their own fault, that bugs or even inherent flaws in liberal theory make radical disruptions like Trump and Brexit possible, maybe inevitable. To be fair, of course, the conservative establishment seems if anything more reluctant to learn anything from recent upheavals. Speeches by GOP stalwarts like John McCain suggest that such proponents of global democratic revolution would rather see perpetual rule by the Democratic Party than any widespread and earnest questioning of the liberal democratic creed. …”
“Fourteen months ago, in the first flush of power, Steve Bannon gave an interview to Michael Wolff — beginning a relationship that would prove his undoing — in which he boasted about his plan to realign our politics. His nationalist-populist movement, he argued, would transform the G.O.P. into something truly new: a right-wing worker’s party that spent freely, “jacked up” infrastructure all over the country, and won “60 percent of the white vote” and “40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote” on its way to a 50-year majority. …”
“Everybody agrees society is in a bad way, but what exactly is the main cause of the badness? Some people emphasize economic issues: The simultaneous concentration of wealth at the top and the stagnation in the middle has delegitimized the system. People like me emphasize cultural issues. If you have 60 years of radical individualism and ruthless meritocracy, you’re going to end up with a society that is atomized, distrustful and divided.
But some emphasize the intellectual. The people who designed our liberal democratic system made fundamental errors, which are now coming home to roost. Notre Dame political scientist Patrick Deneen falls into this camp. His new book, “Why Liberalism Failed,” is a challenge to those of us who want to revive the liberal democratic order. It will attract a cult following among those who are losing faith in the whole project. …”
I’m looking forward to diving into this.
At the present moment, I have another book to finish reading and reviewing first. It appears Patrick Deneen has summarized everything I have believed and said about liberalism for years now. In the United States, George Fitzhugh pioneered this Tory attack on liberalism in Sociology for the South, or, The Failure of Free Society and Cannibals All!, or Slaves Without Masters.
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