Professor Patrick Deenan of the University of Notre Dame published Why Liberalism Failed earlier this year. The title surely strikes its audience, but even more so, Deenan’s work provides a framework for critiquing the current state of political affairs. He does this by providing an analysis of American political history and most importantly, human nature. Divisive identity factions divide the roots in which our two-party culture stems and Deenan elaborates this in an almost birds-eye perspective of the American experiment. Because of this book, I developed a stronger desire to share ‘big ideas’ among the greater conservative youth movement and dive into the world of philosophical undertones to American liberalism.

Upon reading each chapter, with titles like the “New Aristocracy” and “Liberalism Against the Liberal Arts,” I found myself questioning my role and my beliefs in the political world. Demagogues keep audiences entertained with temporal, surface level arguments, but Deenan pushes through this form of a “veil of ignorance” by forcing readers to consider uncomfortable components to our political atmosphere. Be warned: each chapter requires thorough time to debrief. Controversial subjects, by leftist standards, force the reader to contemplate their own opinions. My biggest takeaway from the work is that we all must approach modernity through historical, factual laws that govern humanity rather than focusing on destroying an opponent’s argument for temporal pleasure. Opening this book opens one’s eyes to loud, philosophical questions of identity and civilization’s roots in human nature.

Perhaps the most pertinent points that Deenan calls heed to are those of familial foundations for success and the significance of education. The chapter entitled the “New Aristocracy” was my favorite. Any intellectual discussion on campus regarding socioeconomic differences and class status is sure to erupt trigger warnings, but this chapter brings unique thoughts to light. As conservatives, we know how important the family unit is, but little is this used by other ideological groups to encourage the sincere development of sound economic status or family happiness. It is interesting to note on page 134, Deenan speaks of this when he discusses an apparent new class of educated thinkers, “Marital stability is now a form of competitive advantage for the upper tier.” In a world of victimhood mentality, this book will consistently remind its readers how the adoption of certain mindsets is an incredibly strong determining factor of our individual futures as well as America’s.

To those of us passionate about activism for the conservative movement, there is no denying the effervescent fight for freedom of speech on our college campuses. Deenan is quick to declare how humanities used to be the vital foundation of education, particularly through the study of the classical liberal arts. In today’s classically liberal world, it seems as if the liberal arts are drastically devalued and carry with them negative connotations. How did we get from point A to point B? Why Liberalism Failed provides a thought-provoking perspective as to how academic institutions have come to profess their own interests in the name of an ideal world rather than a realistic one.

Upon completion of the book, it was vastly uncomfortable to process if I actually agreed with the idea that liberalism had failed. As a whole, however, I settled on a more appreciative perspective on the American experiment. Deenan has a convincing eloquence to his writing that makes one think beyond surface-level analysis of the topics he discusses. For example, I found it nearly impossible to brush off big ideas such as ‘technocracy’ and ‘anti-culture’ without resting my brain on the deeper meanings behind them. Why Liberalism Failed also serves as a great complimentary introduction to various philosophical questions that are lined up in this article. This book really helped me make connections between what we see today and how we perceive the past; it is a fantastically invigorating read that will definitely change your life. 10/10 recommend. Check out the book here!

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Kelly H