- File Size: 913 KB
- Print Length: 165 pages
- Publisher: Harper (August 15, 2017)
- Publication Date: August 15, 2017
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
- Language: English
- ASIN: B06WLQ9W27
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,776 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics Kindle Edition
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Mark Lilla will make many people mad, but to excellent purpose. He calls for a revived politics of liberty and justice for truly all and a real debate over how to achieve the common good. The job now is to find and include a genuinely diverse set of voices to create the new American 'we the people' that Lilla envisions.-- "Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business"
In the age of Trump, Mark Lilla's engaging and provocative book is a must-read. The Once and Future Liberal is full of insights on the failure of the identity politics movement, and on what progressives have to do to capture America's imagination and secure the common good.-- "William Julius Wilson, author of More Than Just Race"
After the disaster of November 2016, a wreckage analysis is desperately needed. Mark Lilla offers a deep and provocative brief on what went wrong, and what liberals, moderates, and progressives might do about it.-- "Steven Pinker, New York Times bestselling author"
Though it's a book written by a liberal Democrat for liberal Democrats, every conservative who cares about the future of American politics should read it...The Once and Future Liberal is a punchy, no-BS guide to how the Democrats can make the future their own...[A] must-read.-- "American Conservative"
Brief but brilliant book.-- "Fareed Zakaria" --This text refers to the audioCD edition.
About the Author
Mark Lilla is Professor of the Humanities at Columbia University and a prizewinning essayist for the New York Review of Books and other publications worldwide. His books include The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction; The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West; and The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Charles Constant is an actor whose professional storytelling career began at the age of thirteen, when he became an Actors' Equity Association apprentice. An accomplished audiobook narrator, he has recorded many popular titles, including How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
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I have long been a liberal myself and left of center on nearly everything. And I raise my middle finger high in solidarity with that hypothetical man. I sure hope he doesn't get immersed in white identity politics in response to his utter humiliation. He's the last kind for which it is acceptable to make fun of his religion, his intellect, and the way he talks.
This book nails the problem and cure, and to my surprise it looks like the left is actually listening.
First, the good. Lilla's writing here is succinct, economical, and accessible, all in a very short package. This is a book that is compatible with a "far and wide" reception and reading. That's a good thing in large part because his diagnosis of the present is (in my opinion) the right one. Lilla makes two basic moves here.
First, he argues that the political life of our society can be seen as a series of dispensations—systems of order, thought, attitude, and culture that inhere in a particular, naturally bounded era. He identifies two dispensations of note during or since the early 20th century, essentially those of the New Deal and the Reagan Revolution, which he identifies, as it were, with identity politics. He understands that his choice of terms ("dispensation") comes with certain religious overtones, and these mesh particularly well with his account of the identity politics dispensation as a fundamentally religious one with its taboos, blasphemies, and heretics. This is done cogently and persuasively.
His second move is to suggest, in turn, that what is upon us is the dawn of a new dispensation—one that those who care about our society ought to nudge away from identity and instead toward a particular shared status or life-situation—that of being a citizen—as a founding principle, particularly if we are to survive as a single, integral, governable society. Again, it's done well and those (like myself) who did not study political science at university are given easy entry into the discussion.
Now, the bad. There is more to the book than the two moves above, but sadly there's not all that much more. While it's refreshing to see the argument against identity politics offered in a single place, coherently, persuasively, and with an accessible amount of historical purchase, I suppose I imagined that there would be a new insight here somewhere.
Anyone who regularly reads on politics and society in any random combination of five or six a dozen national rags from either side of the aisle—say, The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Week, The New Republic, National Review and the The American Conservative, for example—will have already pieced this basic argument together some time ago. I wasn't after persuasion so much as I was after something deeper in almost any direction. I thought maybe he'd historicize the concept of identity more completely. Or maybe he'd take an intellectual genealogy angle. Or maybe contextualize identity politics in light of philosophical tradition(s). Or something. Not sure what I was expecting. Just... more.
In short, I was hoping for intellectual and conceptual *illumination*—some help in finding telling frameworks or ways to think about this problem—but instead found material that was essentially either descriptive or already entered into evidence in the standard highbrow press account of things. There just wasn't all that much to highlight.
This is not a critique of the book's argument. It's easy to agree with Lilla here, and that's not nothing. Hopefully his work here will do something to convince a few as-yet-unconvinced someones that there is indeed a fundamental problem with identity politics. Again, that's not nothing.
But if you read Lilla's widely-read article, understood the basic contours of the argument there, and agreed with it, then there's really no reason for you to read the book—though it might be worth buying a copy for a dubious friend or two, particularly if they're capable readers but not particularly academic ones.
This is, quite simply, a very short, accessible work that reads as the summary of a discourse already in evidence.
Is this book readable? Well written and accessible to the general reader, though at times the language is a bit academic. It is a small book, and a call to action. Would a longer book be better? Not if the goal is to reach a large number of readers. Would that hypothetical, longer book be definitive? Who knows? It takes years to do research, write, and publish a substantial work of political and historical analysis. In the meantime many formerly loyal Democrats are withholding their votes from the Party, in large part due to its surrender to identity poltics.
Any serious omissions? Lilla might give more attention to the economy and its profound impacts on ideas and feelings. Employment is critical in shaping our sense of nation and citizenship - the sense of "we" that Lilla finds so lacking. Jobs pay the bills (hopefully, but not always) and can unite people functionally and emotionally, offering a sense of mutual accomplishment and contributions to society. (Sadly, this may not be widespread in the new, "contingent" economy, with ever more people isolated, on their her own as "independent contractors" or "temps.") Underneath much or perhaps most of our public political rhetoric one should not forget economics, as in "It's the economy stupid!" and, "Follow the money."
Some will disagree with my review and with Lilla on substance. This is legitimate, because there is much uncertainty when moving from ideas to their implementation (e.g, winning elections and running government). Others will dismiss my thoughts categorically: for example, as those of an OLD, WHITE, MIDDLE-CLASS ("bourgeois?"), OVER-EDUCATED, MALE, etc. etc.. End of conversation; such labelling is often the gist of overzealous identity politics, and can make democracy unworkable. Yet another dissent is expressed in a comment on my review: "All politics are identity politics" (which I interpret as, "Both parties do it. It's inevitable, so stop complaining"). Wrong!!! Our politcial process is not simply identity politics. Properly conceived politics and identity can be positive aspects of a well functioning society.