From Notre Dame professor and author of Why Liberalism Failed comes a provocative call for replacing the tyranny of the self-serving liberal elite with conservative leaders aligned with the interests of the working class
Classical liberalism promised to overthrow the old aristocracy, creating an order in which individuals could create their own identities and futures. To some extent it did—but it has also demolished the traditions and institutions that nourished ordinary people and created a new and exploitative ruling class. This class’s economic libertarianism, progressive values, and technocratic commitments have led them to rule for the benefit of the “few” at the expense of the “many,” precipitating our current political crises.
In Regime Change, Patrick Deneen proposes a bold plan for replacing the liberal elite and the ideology that created and empowered them. Grass-roots populist efforts to destroy the ruling class altogether are naive; what’s needed is the strategic formation of a new elite devoted to a “pre-postmodern conservatism” and aligned with the interest of the “many.” Their top-down efforts to form a new governing philosophy, ethos, and class could transform our broken regime from one that serves only the so-called meritocrats.
Drawing on the oldest lessons of the western tradition but recognizing the changed conditions that arise in liberal modernity, Deneen offers a roadmap for these changes, offering hope for progress after “progress” and liberty after liberalism.
Notre Dame political science professor Deneen (Why Liberalism Failed) argues in this bracing polemic for a new kind of noblesse oblige in American politics. Describing the current political elite as simultaneously self-serving and contemptuous of the traditional social institutions valued by everyday people, Deneen contends that many on the right have embraced a short-sighted and self-destructive politics of resentment, crystallized in their continuing support for former president Trump. Conservatives, he argues, need to instead focus on fostering a new elite that favors what he calls a "common-good conservatism," combining the left's faltering (in Deneen's view) commitment to working-class economic interests with the right's commitment to promoting social stability through support for family, country, and church. Drawing on Aristotle, Machiavelli, Tocqueville, and other political philosophers, Deneen argues that this new elite will emerge organically if policies that promote "mixing" between the classes are implemented. He proposes a range of both left- and right-wing populist policies, such as mandatory national service, the expansion of the House of Representatives to make representation more fairly proportional, German-style workers councils that include employees in corporate decision-making, and the relocation of federal government offices out of Washington, D.C., and across the country. Deneen's unusual blend of solutions makes for a provocative take on the future of American political culture. (June)