Why Liberalism Failed

  • 06:00 PM

Has liberalism failed because it has succeeded?

Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. As Patrick Deneen argues in this provocative book, liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. Here, Deneen offers an astringent warning that the centripetal forces now at work on our political culture are not superficial flaws but inherent features of a system whose success is generating its own failure.

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About the Author:

Patrick J. Deneen holds a B.A. in English literature and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University.  From 1995-1997 he was Speechwriter and Special Advisor to the Director of the United States Information Agency.  From 1997-2005 he was Assistant Professor of Government at Princeton University.  From 2005-2012 he was Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Associate Professor of Government at Georgetown University, before joining the faculty of Notre Dame in Fall 2012.  He is the author and editor of several books and numerous articles and reviews and has delivered invited lectures around the country and several foreign nations.

Deneen was awarded the A.P.S.A.’s Leo Strauss Award for Best Dissertation in Political Theory in 1995, and an honorable mention for the A.P.S.A.’s Best First Book Award in 2000.  He has been awarded research fellowships from Princeton University and the Earhart Foundation.

His teaching and writing interests focus on the history of political thought, American political thought, religion and politics, and literature and politics.

Published books include:

  • Why Liberalism Failed  (Yale University Press, 2018)
  • Conserving America? Thoughts on Present Discontents  (St. Augustine Press, 2016)
  • Democratic Faith  (Princeton University Press, 2005)
  • The Odyssey of Political Theory  (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000)
  • Democracy’s Literature (ed.),  (Rowman and Littlefield, 2005)
  •  The Democratic Soul (ed.),  (University Press of Kentucky, 2011)
  •  Redeeming Democracy in America (ed.),  (University Press of Kansas, 2011)

He is currently working on several book projects, including:

  • Beyond Democratic Despotism: Reimagining Tocqueville for a World After Democracy
  • The End of Education: The Liberal Arts as the Art of Being Free
  • Liberalism and Conservatism: A Primer

Reviews:

“Deneen’s book is valuable because it focuses on today’s central issue. The important debates now are not about policy. They are about the basic values and structures of our social order.”—David Brooks, The New York Times

 

“Mr. Deneen has written a serious book offering a radical critique of modernity, and he has taken the trouble to do so both concisely and engagingly. His insights as well as his crotchets in pursuit of his argument are often arresting. He writes compellingly on the growth of government in tandem with the spread of liberal market principles, for example, noting that a supposed preference for ‘limited government’ has been no match for the demand for expanding government enforcement of individual rights.”—Tod Lindberg, Wall Street Journal

 

“Vitally important for understanding the present crisis in Western politics.”—Gene Callahan, The American Conservative

 

“This is an essential book as we contemplate the future. Few readers will agree with everything in it, but even fewer will . . . fail to be informed and edified by it. . . . [T]he questions Deneen raises . . . are perhaps the deepest questions about our liberal politics and culture: Can liberalism be saved? Should it?”—Nathaniel Blake, The Federalist

 

“Bold and provocative. . . . Why Liberalism Failed takes up the always necessary, increasingly urgent task of locating the deeper intellectual and cultural traditions that shape our everyday lives.”—Fred Bauer, National Review

 

“Liberalism is clearly in everybody’s sights, and Why Liberalism Failed will be an important contributor to the conversation, suggesting that we cannot work within the existing paradigm anymore. The philosophers will not solve our problems; working with our neighbors will.”—Joshua Mitchell, Professor of Political Theory, Georgetown University

 

“Deneen writes with clarity, candor and superior scholarship to create one of the most absorbing political philosophy books of the past decade.  No one who reads it, no one who considers its substance, will be able to think about the dynamics and the consequences of the American democratic experiment in quite the same way.”—Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, author of Author of Strangers in a Strange Land