In Our Time

The Loss of the Familiar

From the late 19th or early 20th century down to the present day, liberalism has been progressively oriented to psychology and therapeutic technique.  Yet advanced liberalism in the 21st century is as materialist a creed as classical liberalism was in the 19th, and liberal psychology remains as firmly grounded in a materialist philosophy as it was in Jeremy Bentham’s day.  As Patrick Deneen has explained in a recently published and widely discussed book (Why Liberalism Failed, Yale), when we speak of radicals, liberals, and conservatives in their present context we are actually referring to radical liberals, liberals, and conservative liberals, and have been for a century at least.  We are speaking, then, of philosophically radical materialists, philosophically liberal materialists, and philosophically conservative ones; of Social Democratic materialists, Christian Democratic materialists, Labour materialists, Tory materialists, neoliberal materialists, Democratic materialists, and Republican materialists.  So it is natural that all of these parties should have a materialist understanding of the phenomenon they call populism in America and in Western and Eastern Europe, which they explain as the reaction on the part of the ignorant middle and unwashed lower-middle classes to what they perceive to be the damaging consequences of the neoliberal economic system founded on economic competition, free trade, the...

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