A Pernicious Book

Why Liberalism Failed, by Patrick J. Deneen, has been eagerly received and applauded in conservative quarters. The title contains a false premise. Liberalism hasn’t failed. It has been maligned, misrepresented, undercut, and eroded by conservative politicians, opportunists, and agenda-driven ideologues.

In an incisive critique of the book in the November 28  New York Review of Books, Robert Kuttner exposes Deneen’s book as “a theologically based broadside against secular modernity.” 

The book exemplifies a strain of largely uncompromising, hypocritical, and intellectually dishonest authoritarianism, which its proponents presume to be theologically justified. It exemplifies thinking that is pervasive among highly educated extremely conservative Christians, particularly, it seems, Catholics, both in academia and in public life. Examples of such types among the most powerfully placed Trump enablers include Barr, Pompeo, and at least four, and possibly all five, of the conservative Supreme Court justices.

Books like Deneen’s give characters like these intellectual cover in their efforts to propel American democracy in the direction of a religiously ordered authoritarian state.