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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity…
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (edition 2017)

by Mark Lilla (Author)

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1675126,223 (3.98)4
From one of the country's most admired political thinkers, an urgent wake-up call to American liberals to turn from the divisive politics of identity and develop a vision of our future that can persuade all citizens that they share a common destiny. In The Once and Future Liberal, Mark Lilla offers an impassioned, tough-minded, and stinging look at the failure of American liberalism over the past two generations. Although there have been Democrats in the White House, and some notable policy achievements, for nearly 40 years the vision that Ronald Reagan offered--small government, lower taxes, and self-reliant individualism--has remained the country's dominant political ideology. And the Democratic Party has offered no convincing competing vision in response. Instead, as Lilla argues, American liberalism fell under the spell of identity politics, with disastrous consequences. Driven originally by a sincere desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans, the left has now unwittingly balkanized the electorate, encouraged self-absorption rather than solidarity, and invested its energies in social movements rather than in party politics.  With dire consequences. Lilla goes on to show how the left's identity-focused individualism insidiously conspired with the amoral economic individualism of the Reaganite right to shape an electorate with little sense of a shared future and near-contempt for the idea of the common good. In the contest for the American imagination, liberals have abdicated. Now they have an opportunity to reset. The left is motivated, and the Republican Party, led by an unpredictable demagogue, is in ideological disarray. To seize this opportunity, Lilla insists, liberals must concentrate their efforts on recapturing our institutions by winning elections. The time for hectoring is over. It is time to reach out and start persuading people from every walk of life and in every region of the country that liberals will stand up for them. We must appeal to - but also help to rebuild -  a sense of common feeling among Americans, and a sense of duty to each other. A fiercely-argued, no-nonsense book, enlivened by Lilla's acerbic wit and erudition, The Once and Future Liberal is essential reading for our momentous times.… (more)
Member:Hilgendorf-Evans
Title:The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics
Authors:Mark Lilla (Author)
Info:Harper Collins Publ. USA (2017), 160 pages
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics by Mark Lilla

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Written shortly after the 2016 election, this book contains Lilla's diagnosis on what has happened to liberalism and his recommendations for recovery. He starts by noting two major dispensations in modern US politics: the Roosevelt and the Reagan dispensations. Roosevelt's started in the 1930s when Republicans proved unable to deal with the impact of the Great Depression on the common man. It ended with the rise of Reaganism in 1980, and with Trump Lilla states that the Reagan dispensation seems to be coming to an end. He analyzes the Reagan Revolution and the evolution of the Republican mindset from "Sunrise in America" under Reagan to "midnight" and gloom in the run up to Trump's election. He examines how the Republicans succeeded in putting together a winning machine that has lasted until now. Because the main theme of Republicans has been to be anti-government, with a focus on the individual and denial of any common good, he calls this chapter "anti-politics." He then turns to the liberal reaction to Reagan. Instead of developing a vision in opposition to Reagan's based on the common good, liberals "abdicated" and drifted into identity politics--focused on the individual (like the Republicans) but on determining one's identity and how it differentiates one from others. This inward focus is the opposite of what is needed to succeed in institutional and electoral politics, which is to find common ground on issues to fight for and win elections. He calls this chapter "pseudo-politics." For the Democrats to win they must move away from identity politics and focus on the goals that individuals have in common as citizens. "Resistance" and demonstrations are not enough, especially if they entail excluding allies who may not agree with the organizers on every point. ( )
  drsabs | Jan 4, 2020 |
I really wanted to like this book. I agree 100% with its thesis: that solidarity is the core liberal value missing in the US on both the Right (libertarianism) and Left (identity politics). And certainly I am hoping for a sane Left to re-emerge not just in the US but in all world democracies where the Left is in retreat. But while arguing forcefully that politics is not a morality play, the author basically falls into the trap he claims needs to be avoided. He repeatedly labels Republicans as evil, Trump voters as misguided & immoral fools, Trump as the anti-Christ. I’m obviously exaggerating, but only a bit.

Liberalism is a child of the Enlightenment, and the core value on which that was based is skepticism. Lila lacks skepticism regarding his own political values and beliefs. He lives with the religious fervor that the Democrats are the only true democrats. It’s totally fair to disagree with conservatives and Republicans, and Trump and his voters. But labeling them all as evil and unprincipled while claiming you believe in solidarity, makes you a preachy hypocrite. ( )
  aront | Oct 5, 2019 |
This is a hard book to rate. I resist giving it three stars even though four seems like it might be too many.

This is a super-brief political-social history of the "how we got to here," starting roughly in 1960, but with references to the 40's and 50's, the 1770's, etc. combined with an indictment of Identity Politics in general, but most specifically those of the modern "identity liberal." Then a short section of "we can't just rehash Rooseveltian liberalism" but "we need to make common purpose and citizenship the core of our discourse and liberal platform(s)," without any real specifics beyond that.

I'm sick and tired of identity politics, of politics as the personal, of politics as religion; of the reduction of all and everything to power and nothing more; of much or even all that Lilla is sick and tired (and angry and worried) about. But... I wonder if he gives identity liberalism and its practitioners/proponents too short shrift? He nods in the direction -multiple times- of there being real issues of racism, sexism, anti-LGBTQ, etc. But he fails to connect those nods to what he is criticizing.

Much as we need to understand the real issues that are driving "Trump voters" are not all/only about racism, xenophobia, and general revanchism, that there are issues of equality, poverty, criminal justice, "vision" and the like that are completely open to "liberal" solutions, we also need to understand the issues that, to take an example Lilla calls out, BLM are driving forward and/or fueled by. Lilla fails to do that.

But maybe that isn't his role. He's in his sixties, after all, and "social justice warriors" are, broadly speaking, somewhere between their teens and their 30's. Maybe people from that "generation" (edges of X, Y, and Z) need to step up. I think that is happening, at least in some amount. I dunno, we'll see...

In any case, 3.5 stars for part of an important critique and not-quite counterproposal. ( )
1 vote dcunning11235 | Apr 27, 2018 |
A brilliant must read for 2017! ( )
  twp77 | Jan 24, 2018 |
The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics by Mark Lilla was very clear and concise. The author was articulate without talking down; his information was well thought out; the ideas are achievable. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would: I expected to be depressed by the commentary but I came out of it optimistic... There may be hope for us after all! * I won this in a GOODREADS giveaway * ( )
  tenamouse67 | Jan 6, 2018 |
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From one of the country's most admired political thinkers, an urgent wake-up call to American liberals to turn from the divisive politics of identity and develop a vision of our future that can persuade all citizens that they share a common destiny. In The Once and Future Liberal, Mark Lilla offers an impassioned, tough-minded, and stinging look at the failure of American liberalism over the past two generations. Although there have been Democrats in the White House, and some notable policy achievements, for nearly 40 years the vision that Ronald Reagan offered--small government, lower taxes, and self-reliant individualism--has remained the country's dominant political ideology. And the Democratic Party has offered no convincing competing vision in response. Instead, as Lilla argues, American liberalism fell under the spell of identity politics, with disastrous consequences. Driven originally by a sincere desire to protect the most vulnerable Americans, the left has now unwittingly balkanized the electorate, encouraged self-absorption rather than solidarity, and invested its energies in social movements rather than in party politics.  With dire consequences. Lilla goes on to show how the left's identity-focused individualism insidiously conspired with the amoral economic individualism of the Reaganite right to shape an electorate with little sense of a shared future and near-contempt for the idea of the common good. In the contest for the American imagination, liberals have abdicated. Now they have an opportunity to reset. The left is motivated, and the Republican Party, led by an unpredictable demagogue, is in ideological disarray. To seize this opportunity, Lilla insists, liberals must concentrate their efforts on recapturing our institutions by winning elections. The time for hectoring is over. It is time to reach out and start persuading people from every walk of life and in every region of the country that liberals will stand up for them. We must appeal to - but also help to rebuild -  a sense of common feeling among Americans, and a sense of duty to each other. A fiercely-argued, no-nonsense book, enlivened by Lilla's acerbic wit and erudition, The Once and Future Liberal is essential reading for our momentous times.

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