The Once and Future Liberal

The Once and Future Liberal

After Identity Politics

Book - 2017
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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.

Publisher: New York : Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, ©2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062697431
Characteristics: ix, 143 pages ; 20 cm


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Jul 13, 2018

If you’re a liberal who is on the same page as this guy, some other books to read are; The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided about Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt and Republican Like Me: A Lifelong Democrats Journey Across the Aisle by Ken Stern.

Dec 22, 2017

A thought-provoking critique of the forty-plus year failure of liberalism to present a vision to America of what we as a nation could be, having gotten mired in divisive identity-politics. I found this short book to be timely, and oddly inspiring. The author is an avowed liberal, who spares neither right nor left his trenchant observations and at time biting wit. Well worth reading!

Dec 21, 2017

A brief essay on the issue of identity politics and how the adoption of this has negatively affected the Democrats in the United States. I wish the book had been a more researched project rather then the essay that it is. That being said the author makes some salient points about the division of identity politics and how it does not offer a collective belief for the future. Worth reading.

Dec 08, 2017

Just finished this, and promptly bought a copy for my personal library because I think it's an important book. The author, Mark Lilla, a professor of Humanities at Columbia University, says a lot in 141 pages.

One of the major themes of his book is "identity politics," and how the current incarnation of the Democratic Party has focused on that concept to its detriment over the last two decades. He also believes that the Reagan ideology and movement within the Republican Party is ending, and that both parties are floundering and searching for a vision for the future largely due to the malignant phenomenon of Donald Trump.

Lilla is a progressive, and offers a possible path forward to make democratic liberalism more inclusive and politically successful. It's a good book.


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