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Yuval Levin’s new book

15/05/2016

Yuval Levin has a new book coming out (available on Amazon from May 24) entitled The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism. Amidst the chaos of the ongoing US presidential election, any in depth analysis of the nature of American politics is to be welcomed.

With self described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders performing beyond expectations on the Democratic side and the rise of the egotistical Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee, we have seen support for self styled “outsider” candidates on both sides.

Levin, in an Op Ed for the Wall Street Journal last month where he distilled his argument, said the disconnect between ordinary voters and the political establishment is because of a politics of nostalgia – democrats want to return to the 1960s when a tightly regulated economy coalesced with cultural liberalisation and Republicans look to the economic liberalisation of the 1980s Reagan era. The problem, Levin is arguing, is neither nostalgic narrative actually speaks to the challenges American people face today.

The nostalgia, however, does seem to have resonance with the American populace. The Washington Post has a good review of Levin’s book where the reviewer notes Trump’s campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” and the stress of that last word “again” which suggests a sort of nostalgia for some bygone golden era.

Levin, a former staffer of the George W. Bush administration, is a movement conservative and hopes a new conservatism can emerge to address American political and social problems. I think, however, the book will be worth reading for both sides of politics.

As I noted, however, in my opinion piece for the Otago Daily Times last week, it’s hard to see how the Republican party could necessarily rebuild itself in the positive direction Levin hopes for in the aftermath of Trump’s candidacy. This is especially given the speculation that Trump’s nomination represents the death of the Republican party because of Trump’s utter repudiation of nearly everything the Republican party was supposed to stand for.

Levin’s previous book The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth if Right and Left was an excellent work tracing the essential ideological fissure of modern politics to the debate over desirability of the French Revolution to two great philosophers of the time.

Here is my earlier favourable assessment of that book where I found weaknesses with the approaches of both thinkers, as articulated by Levin. Paine appears overly eager to reject the existing order and Burke too willing to defer to existing institutions which may be deeply flawed.

Nonetheless, The Great Debate was an excellent, well researched piece of political philosophy and if The Fractured Republic is half as good then it will be well worth reading.

UPDATE: Amazon has emailed to say the book’s release has been delayed until Tuesday May 31 on kindle.

 

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