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Issue 19

Arts and Letters

Political Actors

Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future

Patrick Deneen
Sentinel, pp. 288, $30.00a


Patrick Deneen’s Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future is really three books sewn together. Together, they confront the discontents of our era, suggest a framework for how we should think about it, and propose what exactly should be done. The first book is a success, the second an interesting (if incomplete) account, and the third curiously lacking. Recognizing what is substantial in Regime Change helps us to understand where American postliberalism sits today. And paying attention to what remains absent or underexplored enlightens us to the full scope of the intellectual challenges—and, one hopes, opportunities—for generations of postliberals to come.

The first book of Regime Change is easily digestible, fluently summarizing the last six years of critical debate about modern American society and its politics through what we might call the postliberal critique of contemporary life in the modern West. That is, a mix of economic precarity, social atomization, societal disorder, political misrule, and ideological extremism under the nation’s current elite class. Deneen states the challenge in a striking way: “We are witness to the emergence of a perverse combination of the new and older forms of tyranny: neither the raw imposition of [the] power of [the] few resulting in the misery of many, nor the soft despotism of a paternalistic state that keeps its citizens in a state of permanent childishness, but the forced imposition of radical expressivism upon the population by the power elite.”

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About the author

Julian G. Waller

Julian G. Waller is a political scientist in Washington, D.C.