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Photo: “Berlin wall in front of Brandenburg Gate – 1989“, by Romtomtom, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. Hue modified from the original

Deneen, Patrick J. Why liberalism failed. Yale University Press, 2019.


Of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century—fascism, communism, and liberalism—only the last remains. This has created a peculiar situation in which liberalism’s proponents tend to forget that it is an ideology and not the natural end-state of human political evolution. As Patrick Deneen argues in this provocative book, liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: it trumpets equal rights while fostering incomparable material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent, yet it discourages civic commitments in favor of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has given rise to the most far-reaching, comprehensive state system in human history. Here, Deneen offers an astringent warning that the centripetal forces now at work on our political culture are not superficial flaws but inherent features of a system whose success is generating its own failure.

Table of contents

  • Introduction: The End of Liberalism
  • ONE. Unsustainable Liberalism
  • TWO. Uniting Individualism and Statism
  • THREE. Liberalism as Anticulture
  • FOUR. Technology and the Loss of Liberty
  • FIVE. Liberalism against Liberal Arts
  • SIX. The New Aristocracy
  • SEVEN. The Degradation of Citizenship
  • Conclusion: Liberty after Liberalism

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.