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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 24, 2019

Paul R. DeHart
Pages 19-31

Why Why Liberalism Failed Fails as an Account of the American Order

In Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen contends that the American founding is fundamentally Hobbesian and that the Constitution is the application of the Hobbesian revolution concerning liberty and anthropology. I contend that Deneen fundamentally mischaracterizes the American founding. The founders and framers affirmed the necessity of consent for political authority and obligation. But they also situated the necessity of consent in the context of a morally and metaphysically realist natural law, maintained that an objective good of the whole constitutes the final end of political association, and described liberty as subjection to the law of nature and the government of God. To be determined by one’s base passions was to be a slave. Moreover, their constitutional thought and the institutional design of the constitutions they built rejected Hobbes’s theory of sovereign power and the metaphysical ground on which it rests.

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