There is a reason that Patrick J. Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed has hit such a chord on it’s release in January. That reason is the collapse of America and the American experiment as the model for the late 20th century world. That failure needs to be recognized in order to lay the past to rest. We must move on and begin to restore the actual small government that fits the world we have created. But that is not the small government of the conservative Liberal order (the Right) but a new creation that meets the needs of social administration utilizing the digital tools of our age. By the same collapse it is not the old industrial socialism that sought the same goals from a communitarian proletariat base. All of this has collapsed before our eyes since November 2016. That trauma has reverberated through North America, Europe and Asia with the election of an incompetent as president in power in the US by accident and manipulating the ancient levers of racism, fear, and greed. The combined shock has forced us to begin to face reality. And it is not the old Liberalism that we are starting to see but something very new.
The axis that we have also oriented ourselves by have been right, left, big and small defining the nature of our government. The traditional right was tied to small government and extreme individualism and the left was tied to larger social services with a stronger communal foundation. As Deneen seems to say, our failure is the social failure of human community relations at the hands of intrusive technocrats in an impersonal and remote government. This is exactly correct. While this seems always to have been understood as the loss of small town democracy in America, in reality it could never exist in a growing society defined by increasingly extreme capitalism. The ever larger exploitation of the planet always became exploitation of the people and the conversion of people into impersonalized workers and consumers. That myth has finally shattered in the face of Trump and nearly mindless extreme greed of the remaining Republican Party. At the same time the corruption and powerlessness of the Democratic Party showed its bankruptcy in community support. There was simply nothing left and everyone now knows it.
There are fast shifting indications of change that seem to be emerging from this awareness of collapse. We have the beginning of a new zeitgeist (thank you D J B) that is centered now on metropolitan areas (cities in our world) that can be ruled digitally ruled by their populations and are inherently protective of diverse individuals and groups. They are also the economic engines of the 21st century world and will be the centers of most of our population in the next twenty to thirty years. There is much writing about this now and more coming.
I’ve begun calling this the discovery of Earth 2 or perhaps that is becoming the construction and settlement of Earth 2. It is a big change and suddenly all of the old fear, frustration, and polarization seems to have met its match. We will have to see