Tag: Patrick Deneen

Patrick Deneen’s Delusions


In the Wall Street Journal’s most recent “Weekend Interview” feature, columnist William McGurn spoke to Professor Patrick Deneen, a political theorist at Notre Dame, about his influential 2018 book Why Liberalism Has Failed. McGurn, himself a Notre Dame graduate, takes Deneen to task for selling the Founders “short” by supposedly exposing their weak moral and social foundations in his book. “Liberalism has failed,” Deneen provocatively claims, “not because it fell short, but because it was true to itself. It has failed because it has succeeded.”

In Deneen’s view basic liberalism necessarily goes astray because it treats the atomistic individual, shorn from his or her social and religious context, solely as a rights-bearing entity. Deneen thus attacks the Framers worldview with its strong protections  of individual rights, free and fair elections, and an independent judiciary.  Writing even before Trump was elected, Deneen argues that it is “evident to all that the political system is broken and social fabric is fraying, particularly as a growing gap between wealthy haves and left-behind have-nots increases, a hostile divide widens between faithful and secular peoples, and deep disagreement persists over America’s role in the world.”

It is one thing, however, to identify a broken social culture; it is quite another to offer a diagnosis and cure for the condition. Deneen does neither. The book’s flap description leads with its chin: “Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains.” Ridding the world of both fascism and communism will never come soon enough, given that both forms of government necessarily degenerate into police states. The same must be said today of socialism, which produces tyrannies in countries such as Russia, China, Cuba and Venezuela.  Even the worst form of liberalism is far better than these mutant forms of social organization.

Member Post


I am currently reading Jonah Goldberg’s “Suicide of the West” and Patrick Deneen’s “Why Liberalism Failed” for a doctoral class. Finding myself about halfway through the former I had the following review retweeted into my timeline this morning and it held exactly the critique of Goldberg’s thesis that was digging at me. I want to […]

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