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Why Liberalism Failed Reviews

Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J. Deneen

Why Liberalism Failed

Patrick J. Deneen

2.67 out of 5

3 reviews

Imprint: Yale University Press
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 28 Mar 2018
ISBN: 9780300223446

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.

2 stars out of 5
21 Apr 2018

"It is not that liberals don’t have their own cultural communities, it is that they have communities Deneen doesn’t like"

Tellingly, one liberal tradition that Deneen fails to mention is pluralism, which many liberals still recognise themselves in today. Pluralism holds that there are numerous competing and irreducible worldviews, and that the goal of politics is to find a way to make them work together.

It is that pluralist project – building bridges between different communities – that is in most urgent need of rediscovery. What we need now is not a retreat to our own communities, which can only aggravate the polarisation of society, not to say give free rein to those already in power. What we need now is more politics.


3 stars out of 5

"Mr Deneen makes his case well, though he sometimes mistakes repetition for persuasion"

Mr Deneen is right to point out that the record of liberalism in recent years has been dismal. He is also right to assert that the world has much to learn from the premodern notions of liberty as self-mastery and self-denial. The biggest enemy of liberalism is not so much atomisation but old-fashioned greed, as members of the Davos elite pile their plates ever higher with perks and share options. But he is wrong to argue that the only way for people to liberate themselves from the contradictions of liberalism is “liberation from liberalism itself”. The best way to read “Why Liberalism Failed” is not as a funeral oration but as a call to action: up your game, or else.

3 stars out of 5
Jennifer Szalai
17 Jan 2018

"...reads like an attempt to enunciate a primal scream, a deeply exasperating volume that nevertheless articulates something important in this age of disillusionment."

“Why Liberalism Failed” is a book that reads like an attempt to enunciate a primal scream, a deeply exasperating volume that nevertheless articulates something important in this age of disillusionment. (David Brooks and Ross Douthat have both written Op-Ed columns about the book for The Times.) Deneen, a professor of political science at Notre Dame, may not admire President Trump, but he understands his appeal...Readers of all political stripes can probably find something in this book that rings true, even if it’s followed by the rude awakening of a record scratch.