Magazine February 5, 2018, Issue

Liberalism’s Failure — and Its Success

Patrick J. Deneen (Intercollegiate Studies Institute)
Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen (Yale, 248 pp., $30)

Let me begin with a trigger warning. If you appreciate the writings of John Locke, if you revere the United States Constitution, and if you view an essential role of government as securing and protecting the unalienable rights outlined in the Bill of Rights, prepare to be provoked by Patrick Deneen’s new book. Called “Why Liberalism Failed,” it makes the argument that the modern liberal order is failing precisely because it succeeded. The very success of liberalism has hollowed out modern American society, stripped it of virtue, and contributed to monstrous levels of economic and social inequality.

But first, let’s define

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