Brett Williams's Reviews > Why Liberalism Failed

Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick J. Deneen
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it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites

For me, this book will rank among those rare oracles that clarify what we can sense but not see. We know America and the West are ailing, perhaps terminally ill, but with such rapid, recurring, and many-sided social whiplash, who can say why? Like Arnold Toynbee, Oswald Spengler, Brooks Adams, or Edward Gibbon, author Deneen is one of the decoders. As the New York Times wrote of this book, “Tocqueville’s fear that [classical] liberalism would eventually dissolve all its inheritances may now be fully upon us.” For Deneen, it is the unchallenged structure of the liberal State and conservative Market, perverted through excess, and unhinged by the natural evolution of individualism under such an order. An order where neither side in our tribal Culture Wars were given a “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.” While belonging can be binding, it can also be blinding. In the interest of perfecting the individual, we disconnected ourselves from any obfuscating attachments for the clarity of self-actualization, self-realization, and listlessness, desperate to recover what we lost. Deneen shows our backfill has been consumerism, technology, entertainment, and affirmations of membership in clans that exists mostly in cyberspace and the airways. All of it detached from humane existence we evolved with over the preceding 40,000 years.

Deneen clarifies for me that while our Founders tried to give us stable governance of, by, and for unstable humans, such a form cannot be sustained in perpetuity because humans cannot be stabilized in perpetuity. Humans are innovators, seeking advances, workarounds, and change that strains every limit. We can’t know what a system can handle until we break it. But Humpty Dumpty social systems can’t be put back together like machines. The “micro-implosions” scattered about our social terrain quake throughout all of society. Every social system and consequent form of governance fails in ways particular to their baseline in the time it takes for humans to find out how to do that. Deneen shows us our way. This looks like our time.
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Reading Progress

March 28, 2019 – Shelved (Hardcover Edition)
March 28, 2019 – Shelved as: to-read (Hardcover Edition)
May 6, 2019 – Started Reading
May 6, 2019 – Shelved
July 1, 2019 – Finished Reading
November 16, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites

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