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By Patrick J. Deneen, First Things, March 2020

Patrick J. Deneen is David A. Potenziani Memorial Professor of Constitutional Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite
by michael lind
portfolio, 224 pages, $25

Michael Lind’s The New Class War is sure to be one of the most important political books of the new decade. Like many recent publications, The New Class War explains the rise of populism and the decline of liberalism across the West. But it succeeds where others fail. The managerial elite has sought to blame anyone but themselves for the rise of populism. Their culprits include Russian meddling, white nationalism, a vaguely defined illiberalism—anything but liberal values and economic arrangements. Lind, himself a member of the managerial elite, recognizes the culpability of his own class. The elite’s high ideals combined with their base self-interest have precipitated a widening gap between winners and losers in the developed world.

Lind tells a compelling story of how we arrived at the current moment. The elite of the last century were forced to make significant concessions to the working class due to the exigencies of World War II. For Lind, the 1950s were a high-water mark of economic equality and national solidarity, led by an old left that defended the working class. The consensus, in broad terms, was economically left and socially right. It limited immigration of low-skill workers, provided social welfare, defended traditional familial and sexual norms, worked in concert with America’s communal “small platoons,” and was unabashedly religious, especially in its working-class Catholic manifestation.

Then came the deluge. A combination of right- and left-­libertarianism came to dominate both political parties. On the right, an anti-regulatory instinct justified an assault on the gains of organized labor.   ….

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