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Thoughts on Deneen’s Anti-Liberalism: Or, Against a Confederacy of Abbot-led Cooperatives

I’m no fan of extreme individualism, but the way to constraining it is not through Patrick Deneen’s revisionist history of “liberalism” and a tyranny of the parochial. I was struck by this passage from Hugo Drochon’s reflection on Deneen’s new book (Why Liberalism Failed):

Rising inequality, the degradation of the environment, decreasing living standards, increasing loneliness, the destructive polarisation of our political world – Deneen blames liberalism for all the ills currently afflicting society. Surprisingly, he does not attribute these ills to the failures of liberalism, but to its success.

Like many conservatives, Deneen sees liberalism not simply as a theory about how to conduct politics, but as an all-encompassing ideology, like fascism and communism, that extends to philosophy, society and the economy. And it is an ideology that has won – which is why, on Deneen’s view, everything that is wrong with the world can be blamed on it. If liberalism is the cause of all our troubles, then the answer, according to Deneen, is to get rid of it altogether.

Conservative Catholics, it seems, always want to chuck the baby (i.e. freedom) with the bathwater (i.e. liberalism). Why? Read more…

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My Review of Dorothy Day’s Loaves and Fishes

Day-Loaves-and-Fishes[Note: Also posted in Goodreads. – TL]

This is a wonderful recounting—touching and moving—from Dorothy Day about her years with the Catholic Worker Movement. Of course she founded that movement with Peter Maurin. This book consists of her memories, reflections, and wisdom gained from Catholic Worker activities.

Part I covers the beginnings, with Maurin, as well as the paper, the houses of hospitality, the farms, and activities on behalf of pacifism. Part II address the larger themes of poverty and precarity—and how Day, Maurin, and Catholic Worker staff and associates handle those themes. Part III consists of Day’s memories and intimate portraits of various associates: Maurin (in depth), Ammon Hennacy, priests and members of the hierarchy who have lent their support, and various writers and helpers of the Catholic Worker paper. In the last section, Part IV, Day reflects on various homes and farms owned and run by the Catholic Worker staff. The last chapter of that section contains Day’s integration of Catholic thought and sacred scripture as related to the movement. But she is unsparing of herself and the contradictions—practical, theoretical, and theological—that have arisen over time. Read more…

Our Inadequate, Simplistic, and Anachronistic National Philosophy of K-12 Education

This article is correct to identify, and call out, national problems in relation taking care of the mental and emotional health of our students. But these deficiencies have arisen due to a generally inadequate national philosophy of education. Read more…

Ranking the Post-WWII Presidents: From Truman to Trump

In this article by Rick Shenkman, he questions why President John F. Kennedy continues to rank so highly in the public’s imagination of post-WWII presidents. Shenkman is convinced that Kennedy benefits from superficial images: beautiful photographs of his family and their vacations, staged and candid pictures of the president and his gorgeous wife, etc. Shenkman excludes from his analysis images of Kennedy’s assassination, but I think he discounts the power of sympathy, hurt, and loss that evoke a nostalgia for what might have been. I can see that. And I bet that plays a part in the rankings of Reagan, Clinton, and Obama too.

I’m less interested in why Kennedy is ranked first than I am of the rankings on which Shenkman commented. Read more…

The Problem of Statism

It’s taken me a bit to get around to this brilliant essay by Andrew Hartman. At base it’s a review of Nancy MacLean’s provocative book (*Democracy in Chains*), but Hartman expertly weaves in references to Martin Sklar, S.M. Amadae, Richard Hofstadter, William Clare Roberts, Antonio Gramsci, and, of course, Karl Marx.

I have leveled some harsh criticism about Hofstadter’s philosophy of education and his *Anti-Intellectualism* book (and works built on it). But Hartman demonstrates why James Livingston has both vigorously defended Hofstadter and advocated for him as an exemplar to historians today. Hartman’s counterintuitive conclusion depends, in a way, on an insight gathered from RH’s *The American Political Tradition*–in particular from the essay on John C. Calhoun. Read more…

A Survey of U.S. Christian Thinkers: A Work for All [Book Review]

Schell-Ott-Christian-ThoughtReview of Hannah Schell and Daniel Ott, Christian Thought in America: A Brief History. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015. 340 pages.

Works that specifically survey the total history of Christian thought in the United States, from John Winthrop to late twentieth-century womanist theology, are rare. Historians such as Mark Noll and Kathleen Sprows Cummings offer excellent books that satisfy in terms of covering large swaths of the history of U.S. Christianity. And some authors have written on the entirety of Christian thought. But few have provided accessible but serious introductions to the breadth of American history in this arena.

Into this historiographic breach enters a new, ambitious book by Hannah Schell and Daniel Ott, Christian Thought in America: A Brief History. They take the reader on an A-Z, 500-year journey that starts with Winthrop, Thomas Hooker and Roger Williams and moves up to the twenty-first century, summarizing the thought of figures such as Stanley Hauerwas, Cornel West, Kathryn Tanner, and Miroslav Volf. All of one’s favorites, as well as lesser known theologians and philosophers of religion, are covered in between. Read more…