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Friday, March 16, 2018

Whatever Happened to Liberalism?

Whatever Happened to Liberalism?

Enough navel gazing! But not enough cultural analysis! A book making the review rounds (and sitting on my desk waiting for me to crack it open) is Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed. As one review puts it, the Notre Dame political theorist “offers a stinging indictment” of troubling assumptions imbibed by both the left and right, assumptions that are now undermining our culture and politics. The problems are two.
The first is that the political and cultural wars between left and right obscure the fact that progressives and conservatives alike accept the liberal understanding of human freedom as “expressive individualism.” They treat each other as mortal enemies, and yet they are both engaged in advancing an “anti-culture” that tells young men and women that liberation is their only birthright. …
[Second] The victors in modern liberal society—the “new aristocracy,” as Deneen calls them—are the ones reaping the greatest personal benefits from liberalism while leaving the worst cultural wreckage to those whose economic, moral, and metaphysical lives are far more fragile.
Read the review in The Weekly Standard for more details. If you want to get a flavor of Deneen and his concerns, check out his essay in First Things “The Ignoble Lie: How the New Aristocracy Masks Its Privilege.” I do think he’s on to something in identifying our cultural elite as a new aristocracy of sorts, with all the attendant problems of aristocracy.

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