Distinguishing Before Denouncing: A Review of “Why Liberalism Failed”


Liberalism has failed. Or so confidently declares Patrick Deneen in his obviously named Why Liberalism Failed. Deneen offers one of the more useful and concise attacks on the often vaporously defined liberalism that has, according to Deneen, plagued modern societies for the last several hundred years. Deneen’s proof of liberalism’s failure is not that it failed to change society, but that liberal societies became exactly what they were supposed to be. The liberal state increasingly worked towards removing cultural and social institutions responsible for governing society’s consumer and sexual appetites. Few orthodox Christians dispute that these are woeful problems. And Deneen deserves praise for identifying the ills that plague modern society. The book’s weaknesses are anachronism, and imprecise and lethargic taxonomy.