R. R. Reno’s Return of the Strong Gods is the latest book to present an intellectual defense of the transatlantic populist revival that includes Brexit and the election of Donald Trump among its triumphs. Rival accounts focus on economic concerns or disputes about sovereignty. Without dismissing these explanations, Reno focuses on the deficit of meaning that characterizes modern life.
By nature, Reno argues, human beings yearn to participate in groups. Such groups are not merely instruments to secure material goods. They are implicitly or explicitly devoted to shared purposes.
Kinship offers a partial satisfaction of our nature by establishing obligations among persons …
This article appears as “Twilight of the Idols” in the January 27, 2020, print edition of National Review.