Why Liberalism Failed

Feb 1, 2018
Swift Hall, 3rd Floor Lecture
1025 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Patrick DeneenUniversity of Notre Dame

  • Patrick Deneen - Why Liberalism Failed
  • Patrick Deneen - Interview

Free and open to the public.

Cosponsored by the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought, the Seminary Coop Bookstore, and the Divinity School Theology Club.


Has liberalism failed because it has succeeded? 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.

You can read recent reviews of Why Liberalism Failed in the Wall Street Journal  and the New York Times.

Professor Deneen also taught a master class on Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America on Friday, February 2.

To view photos of the lecture, visit Lumen Christi's Facebook page.

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Patrick J. Deneen is the David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a B.A. in English literature and a Ph.D. in Political Science from Rutgers University. Before coming to Notre Dame, he taught at Princeton University and Georgetown University. He is the author and editor of several books and numerous articles and reviews and has delivered invited lectures around the country and several foreign nations on the history of political thought, American political thought, religion and politics, and literature and politics. His books include Democratic Faith, Conserving America? Thoughts on Present Discontents, and most recently Why Liberalism Failed (Yale University Press, 2018).