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Neoliberalism and its discontents

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This interesting essay on the suddenly influential neo-reactionary political theorist Patrick Deneen raises implicitly a set of problems and concerns that the contemporary political order isn’t really addressing at all, let alone in a satisfactory way.

These include:

(1) The social and environmental destructiveness of contemporary capitalism.

(2) The profound social atomization and radical economic inequality caused by the same.

(3) The destruction of so many traditional sources of identity, community, and meaning.

The third point reminds me of Marx’s famous aphorism that “religion is the opium of the people.” What almost nobody ever remembers is that he goes on to add: “It is the cry of the soul in a soulless world.”

The failure of communism and – less definitively — socialism as alternatives to the liberal capitalist order has left a massive gap on the left. On the right, of course, it’s created a golden opportunity for radical reactionaries like Deneen and his colleague Adrian Vermeule to push for, um, radical reactionary authoritarianism, with an occasional vague gesture toward the idea that maybe labor unions are good things, at least if they’re Catholic.

At the present moment, when the choice is so clearly between a in many ways profoundly unsatisfactory capitalist neoliberal order, and various flavors of revenant fascism, authoritarianism, and reaction, the search for a viable left alternative to the former is, as a practical matter, not an immediate concern.

But that search needs to be carried out in a serious way over the course of the next few decades, assuming that first the barbarians are thrown back from the gate.

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