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Classical liberalism promised to overthrow the old aristocracy, creating an order in which individuals could create their own identities and futures. To some extent it did—but it has also demolished the traditions and institutions that nourished ordinary people and created a new and exploitative ruling class. This class’s economic libertarianism, progressive values, and technocratic commitments have led them to rule for the benefit of the “few” at the expense of the “many,” precipitating our current political crises.
In Regime Change, Patrick Deneen proposes a bold plan for replacing the liberal elite and the ideology that created and empowered them. Grass-roots populist efforts to destroy the ruling class altogether are naive; what’s needed is the strategic formation of a new elite devoted to a “pre-postmodern conservatism” and aligned with the interest of the “many.” Their top-down efforts to form a new governing philosophy, ethos, and class could transform our broken regime from one that serves only the so-called meritocrats.
Drawing on the oldest lessons of the western tradition but recognizing the changed conditions that arise in liberal modernity, Deneen offers a roadmap for these changes, offering hope for progress after “progress” and liberty after liberalism.