A New Book Takes on 500 Years of Modern Liberalism
Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen, uses “liberalism” in the oldest, broadest sense of the term. Deneen’s sweeping, severe assessment of all that has gone wrong in our time attacks modernity’s entire package-deal: individuals possessing inalienable rights; representative, accountable governments that exist to secure those rights; the separation of church and state; the commitment to progress, prosperity, and self-determination.
Deneen, a University of Notre Dame political scientist, calls liberalism a “political philosophy conceived some 500 years ago,” a project set in motion by Machiavelli, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes before John Locke, James Madison, and John Stuart Mill elaborated and systematized it. Though launched with lofty aspirations to promote equity, pluralism, dignity, and liberty, it turns out that liberalism “generates titanic inequality, enforces uniformity and homogeneity, fosters material and spiritual degradation, and undermines freedom.” Liberalism failed because it succeeded, Deneen argues.
William Voegeli is a senior editor of the Claremont Review of Books and author of: Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State (Encounter Books); and The Pity Party: A Mean-Spirited Diatribe Against Liberal Compassion (Broadside Books). A visiting scholar at Claremont McKenna College’s Henry Salvatori Center, his work has appeared in the City Journal, Commentary, the Los Angeles Times, National Review, The Weekly Standard, and other publications. Mr. Voegeli received his Ph.D. in political science from Loyola University in Chicago and was a program officer for the John M. Olin Foundation from 1988 to 2003.
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.
Want to help the Jack Miller Center transform higher education? Donate today.