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Samuel Gregg on the inconsistencies of liberalism

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What defines “liberalism” today, and how has liberalism evolved over the past centuries? The ideology of liberalism contains many contradictions, making its definition (and history) a convoluted one. The further liberalism strays from human reason, a true anthropology, and moral culture, the harder it becomes for liberals to coherently advocate for life and liberty. In his book Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen tackles the challenge of pinpointing the problems of “liberal order,” but in doing so, leaves some questions hanging.

In an article written for the Witherspoon Institute, Samuel Gregg, Acton’s Director of Research, addresses some of Deneen’s claims he found unconvincing.

In his book Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen outlines a very specific understanding of liberalism and why he thinks it’s a problem. Liberalism, he writes, is an ideology that, like any ideology, is concerned with remaking society in ways at odds with the truth about man. According to Deneen, many of America’s present problems, ranging from higher education’s ongoing crack-up to the emergence of transhumanist fantasies, mirror the triumph and internal contradictions of liberalism-as-ideology…Alongside these positions, however, Deneen advances several arguments that I find less convincing. I agree, for instance, with some of Robert Reilly’s criticisms of Deneen’s interpretation of the American Founding. But I have three other broad critiques to offer in this essay.

Read Gregg’s whole piece, “Patrick Deneen and the Problem with Liberalism.”

Caroline Roberts Caroline Roberts has a B.A. in English from Grove City College and produces the Acton Institute’s podcast, Radio Free Acton.

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