Vladimir Lenin taught that “he who says A must say B.” He was correct, but Patrick Deneen has not listened. Deneen says A, that our Regime, our ruling class, is destructive and evil. But he then refuses to say B, that the Regime is therefore wholly odious and illegitimate, and before any new system is possible, it must be destroyed. Instead, Deneen’s response to A is magical thinking. When the people peacefully complain enough, you see, the Regime will dismantle itself voluntarily and hand over power to a new ruling class, which will hold and implement opposite views on every matter under the sun. This absurd fantasy, even when cushioned within much fancy philosophy, harms rather than advances the postliberal project.
I looked forward to this book, which should have been the culmination of Deneen’s bold decade-long project to discredit and replace the so-called Enlightenment, and should have cemented his position as one of the most important leaders of the postliberal American Right. Beginning in 2016’s Conserving America?, and continuing with the outstanding Why Liberalism Failed, Deneen ably described the origin of our present discontents, namely the inherent defects of Enlightenment ideology, that is, Left ideology. I will not repeat his analyses and arguments from those earlier works here, although you should read my summaries of them, and my thoughts on them. But here Deneen’s project dies with a whimper, either because he actually believes, contrary to all history and common sense, that in politics one can get a free lunch, or because he is afraid to identify himself as an genuine enemy of the Regime, thus associating himself with the wrong sort of people, and thereby risk being expelled from polite society, membership in which is wholly controlled by the Regime.
Categories: Left and Right