cover image Liberalism and Its Discontents

Liberalism and Its Discontents

Francis Fukuyama. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-60671-8

A liberalism under siege from right and left gets a measured defense in this incisive treatise on politics and governance. Stanford University political scientist Fukuyama (The End of History and the Last Man), ponders classical liberalism as a creed that champions respect for individual dignity and autonomy, the rule of law, economic freedom, and scientific rationality. Unfortunately, he contends, liberalism has wandered into excesses, including neoliberal economic theories and policies that are hostile to even necessary government regulation and breed inequality, dislocation, and soulless consumerism; divisive attacks on social traditions in the name of personal self-actualization; identity politics demanding that rights be invested in groups rather than individuals; and ambitions to override property rights and redistribute wealth. As a result, both right-wing populists and left-wing progressives are wary of liberal ideals of tolerance, freedom, and reasoned debate. Fukuyama’s lucid, insightful analysis traces liberalism’s development back to its medieval Christian roots and forward to modern philosophical muddles and today’s wrangles over voting restrictions and cancel culture, offering tart criticism for all sides: “Progressives and white nationalists come together in valuing raw feeling and emotion over cold empirical analysis.” The result is an authoritative and accessible diagnosis of how liberalism went wrong and how it can reclaim its best impulses. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM Partners. (May)