Catholicism has some pretty deep roots in Washington. Six of the nine justices of the US Supreme Court are Roman Catholics. Go figure. Now American Conservatives are cheering Catholic intellectual, Patrick J. Deneen's attack on pluralism in his new book, "Why Liberalism Failed."
Since the election of Trump, writers of all stripes have been lining up to pen liberalism’s epitaph.
On the left, the pernicious effects of neo-liberal economics has been denounced, while on the right, liberalism’s cosmopolitanism, which has no apparent regard for nation, religion or family, has been decried.
The left’s answer has been to demand more social democracy to combat galloping inequality, while the right has called for the return to traditional values, anchored in the “community”.
American conservatives, especially among the country’s powerful Catholic minority (which includes six of the nine supreme court justices), have found a new champion for their cause in the Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen. His latest book, Why Liberalism Failed, has been critically acclaimed throughout the conservative press, with the prominent Harvard legal scholar Adrian Vermeule, himself a recent convert to Catholicism, declaring it a “triumph”.
Rising inequality, the degradation of the environment, decreasing living standards, increasing loneliness, the destructive polarisation of our political world – Deneen blames liberalism for all the ills currently afflicting society. Surprisingly, he does not attribute these ills to the failures of liberalism, but to its success.
...Instead of individualism, Deneen says the future lies with radically decentralised, local communities where the true meaning of culture might be found again. By culture, he means “a set of generational customs, practices, and rituals that are grounded in local and particular settings”
...The call for such a return is anti-democratic, and doubly so. First, Deneen believes political decisions should not emanate from within the community itself – the democratic ideal of self-government – but from an outside source, namely God (and a Catholic God at that).
Second, Deneen believes the Catholic community has a privileged access to the truth that the rest of the political community – which has already made up its mind on gay marriage and premarital sex – does not. From this perspective, the national community is wrong, and democracy is mistaken.Curious about this fellow, Deneen, I tracked down a web site where his writings are featured, The Imaginative Conservative. Here you may find Deneen's essays with titles such as "Is Academic Freedom Inherently Good?" or "Equality, Tyranny and Despotism in Democracy: or Remembering Alexis de Tocqueville," or my favourite, "The Case for 'Serfdom,' Rightly Understood."
This Fenian bastard imagines an end to liberalism and its replacement with a form of controlled existence, neo-feudalism, to be so much better because, well, everybody knows his place.
Serfdom, to be accurate, is an arrangement whereby you owe specific duties to a specific person, a lord—and in turn, that lord owes you specific duties as well.
...This was the argument of Bertrand de Jouvenel, who observed in his neglected masterpiece On Power that the rise of the centralized modern State was spurred when monarchs, seeking to break the power of local lords, promised liberation to the people in return for their direct fealty, and thus began a long and familiar tradition of expanding State power in the very name of liberation of individuals from mediating ties. His argument was refined and made with distinct power in the modern context by Robert Nisbet in the earliest years of American conservatism, in his 1953 book Quest for Community, in which he argued that the totalized State was not simply the imposition of despotic force upon a recalcitrant people—it was never that—but was desired by populations whose “longing for community” had been transferred from a range of identities and memberships below the level of the State, to the State itself.
We begin to see this with ever-growing clarity in our own times—a new, kinder and gentler total State. It promises its citizenry liberty at every turn, and that liberty involves ever-greater freedom from the partial institutions of civil society, or ones remade in accordance with the aims of the State. The states as sovereign political units have been almost wholly eviscerated, and are now largely administrative units for the federal government. Satisfied with that victory, we now see extraordinary efforts to “break” two institutions that have always been most resistant to the total State: churches and family. We see an unprecedented efforts by the Federal government to abridge religious liberty by conscripting religious institutions like Little Sisters of the Poor (and my institution, Notre Dame) to be agents conscripted into providing abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception—in the name of individual liberty. We can expect determined and even ferocious efforts to bend Churches to accept gay marriage as a norm, even to the point of forcing them entirely out of the civil realm. And we see increasing efforts of the government to “liberate” children from their families—represented perhaps most chillingly by the MSNBC clip showing Melissa Harris-Perry explaining how the greatest obstacle to State education has been the pervasive notion that kids “belong” to families rather than belonging “collectively to all of us.”Having read this garbage I was reminded of Sinclair Lewis' warning to America: "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."
It's bad enough that the US has a president with strong authoritarian leanings. It's much, much worse that someone like Deneen should be a "new champion" of American conservatism.