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North Korea’s Search for Totality

In early April, I participated in the Pyongyang Marathon, organized for the birthday of the Great Leader, Kim Il-sung (1912–1994), founder of the Kim dynasty. He is the father of the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il (1941–2011), and the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un. Our tour…

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Privilege and Idolatry

In May of 2005, the late David Foster Wallace delivered one of the wisest, most demanding commencement speeches in recent memory. The speech is titled “This Is Water,” a phrase drawn from the following joke: “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way,…

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Nicholas II: A Tsar’s Life for the People?

On July 16 and 17, Russia will mark one of the most sensitive centenaries in its recent history: the slaughter of Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, his wife (the Anglo-German Empress Alexandra), five children, and four remaining servants at point-blank range by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918. Beyond Russia’s borders, the Great War was…

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Shopping for the Sublime

When Bruce Springsteen—that avatar of a blue-collar America fighting for its life against the riptide of history—asked on his 1981 single “The River” whether a dream is a lie if it doesn’t come true or if it’s something worse, the question was rhetorical. This is America, after all. Dreams and lies are similar things, each with a force derived from desire…

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Classless Utopia versus Class Compromise

In March 2018, China’s state-controlled internet, amid rumors that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was secretly visiting China, rendered the term “fatty” unsearchable. In China, “Fatty the Third” is a derogatory nickname for Kim, who inherited his position from his father and grandfather. This occurred shortly after Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party…

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Can Democracy Save Us?

Patrick Deneen’s Why Liberalism Failed is a well-argued critical dissection of liberalism, one of the most persuasive I have read in recent years. Deneen understands “liberalism” to be one of the three powerful and all-encompassing ideologies of modern times—the other two being fascism and communism—that “proposed transforming all aspects of human life to conform to a preconceived plan…

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Fascists and Revolutionaries

The first time I remember really fearing for my generation—not the abstract uneasiness aroused by depressing statistics but a gut-level dread, something dark and unnameable lurking just beyond articulation—came in the fall of 2012. Millennials…

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Liberal Liberation

Patrick Deneen is certainly not the first critic of liberalism to notice that it has something of the character of religion. He is particularly adept, however, at detailing one of its most striking faith-based features. Critics of religion, especially liberal ones, like to point out the irrational tendency of believers, in the face of disaster or social collapse, to believe ever more intensely in their doctrine the more reality seems to fail to conform to it…

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Integration from Within

One of the central themes of Tocqueville’s thought is that a political movement, or (at a later stage) a political regime, may be undone by its very success. University of Notre Dame professor Patrick J. Deneen shows himself to be a worthy successor of Tocqueville…

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Moral Overload

Donald Trump’s election as president was a shattering defeat for left-of-center Americans. Commentators said that Democrats had focused too much on protecting specific groups—racial minorities, immigrants, and so on—and not enough on appealing to a broad public.1 The Democratic deficit was not only in votes, however, but in style. In recent decades, the Left has…

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