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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 24, 2019

Kenneth L. Grasso
Pages 43-54
DOI: 10.5840/cssr20192429

Getting Liberalism Right

Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed offers a compelling critique of liberalism that casts considerable light on many of our current discontents. Nevertheless, its argument is vitiated by certain shortcomings, namely, a failure to recognize the role of other traditions in inspiring and shaping liberal democracy, and to do justice to the achievements, history, and complexities of the liberal intellectual tradition. Likewise, its account of liberalism fails to address that tradition’s defining philosophical commitments, commitments that determine the limits and possibilities of its political theorizing and explain its historical trajectory toward an ever-deeper individualism. It will not be possible to escape the intellectual prison of Enlightenment Liberalism’s moral emotivism and hyper-individualism until we have transcended the impoverished metaphysics from which they issue.