[PDF / Epub] ☁ The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism Author Yuval Levin – Vejega.info

[PDF / Epub] ☁ The Fractured Republic: Renewing America's Social Contract in the Age of Individualism Author Yuval Levin – Vejega.info I enjoyed reading this, for the most part Levin had some very valuable insights and observations, but his prescriptions for what we should do about it all were too detached e.g The Right shouldThe Left should, and I ask, who s going to make em Nevertheless, as an observer, Levin was often invaluable I especially appreciated his distinction of identity and community Worth reading, at any rate. How do we make our fractured republic a society of human flourishing Levin rejects both the progressive Left s prescription for consolidatingpower in the national government and the libertarian Right s prescription of expanding individual liberty without regard for whether we as a people, through our governments federal, state, local , are making space for and promoting institutions that will form citizens with enough moral maturity to choose the good, true, and beautiful.Instead Levin c How do we make our fractured republic a society of human flourishing Levin rejects both the progressive Left s prescription for consolidatingpower in the national government and the libertarian Right s prescription of expanding individual liberty without regard for whether we as a people, through our governments federal, state, local , are making space for and promoting institutions that will form citizens with enough moral maturity to choose the good, true, and beautiful.Instead Levin calls for a communitarian conservatism dedicated to the protection and promotion of the institutions in between the national government and the individual, most especially the family, religious communities and institutions, work, and education In other words, Levin is a big fan of the concept of subsidiarity.I would like to believe that there is a chance that Levin s prescription would work Unfortunately, I think that we Americans are so splintered that there is not enough common ground for the middle institutions to effectively renew our culture.Let s take the example of families I m all for government policies supporting families Unfortunately, we can t agree on what constitutes a family.Same for education I think a good education that, in addition to teaching practical skills, provides students with an appreciation of history, literature, and the arts, helps form good citizens But, who can agree on how to teach those subjects, either at the K 12 or the university level I think it s safe to suppose that students at, for example, Brown University in the Ivy League and those at the University of Dallas a Catholic university with a reputation for excellence and an appreciation for tradition are receiving vastly different educations in the humanities.I hope Levin is right and I am wrong I will need to hearpersuasive arguments to be convinced.The fact that Levin didn t win me over is certainly not due to brevity He could have fit this 225 page book into about 100 pages Levin s redundancy repeatedly had me thinking, He s already made this point three times Enough already This is one book that lives up to its hype and is simply a must read if you are interested in politics and public affairs in this country Levin brilliantly lays out the problematic nostalgia that fuels our politics and our frustration with it at the same time He then lays out a beautiful alternative that actually acknowledges the problems we face and argues for strategies that are likely to retain the progress and positives of our current culture and economy and seek to address their failures This is one book that lives up to its hype and is simply a must read if you are interested in politics and public affairs in this country Levin brilliantly lays out the problematic nostalgia that fuels our politics and our frustration with it at the same time He then lays out a beautiful alternative that actually acknowledges the problems we face and argues for strategies that are likely to retain the progress and positives of our current culture and economy and seek to address their failures and dangers.I have to confess that my gushing praise of this book might be related to the way it mirrors my own thinking, oraccurately, brings to light in clear prose some of the vague instincts and unclarified thoughts I have had over the years Levin puts to words, and backs it up with research and data, what I only guessed at or hoped for.I will probably have to read this again to truly appreciate the argument and details but I can already recommend it wholeheartedly This is a book for our time It gives you hope that a future for conservatives and for American politics is actually possible The Fractured Republic is a fantastically original book It is very optimistic, yet clear eyed, which is a rare combination Most optimistic books about modern politics are also simplistic They typically consist of vague and belligerent paeans demanding the recapture of America s past Yuval Levin s book, on the other hand, is the very opposite It is precise and even handed And far from demanding recapture of the past, Levin explicitly rejects any such attempt At the same time, Levin belie The Fractured Republic is a fantastically original book It is very optimistic, yet clear eyed, which is a rare combination Most optimistic books about modern politics are also simplistic They typically consist of vague and belligerent paeans demanding the recapture of America s past Yuval Levin s book, on the other hand, is the very opposite It is precise and even handed And far from demanding recapture of the past, Levin explicitly rejects any such attempt At the same time, Levin believes that we as Americans, liberal and conservative, can jointly renew our society without retreading the past, and in this age, such optimism is no small thing.Yuval Levin is a reform conservative, part of a loose group that includes such writers as Reihan Salam, Ross Douthat, Michael Lotus and James Bennett in America 3.0, and perhaps Rod Dreher Reform conservatives are one of the constellation of conservative sub groups that has emerged as the Republican pseudo consensus of the past several decades has shattered I would say, without knowing all that much about him, that Levin is an applied political philosopher He edits the journal National Affairs and is the author of the excellent The Great Debate, contrasting the philosophies of Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke He has thought very deeply on the problems facing America, and this book is the result The Fractured Republic is a difficult book to summarize because its thought is densely original But I ll try And reviewing this book is helped by Levin s writing skill Each word is measured and precisely chosen Not a single trace of sloppy writing or sloppy thinking mars this book Yes, it the material can be a little dry, but that s in the nature of political philosophy, and I don t think any author could do better than Levin.The first part of the book looks at the past century of American history through a new prism, criticizing both the modern Right and Left for a politics based on nostalgia, for focusing on a supposedly golden age they do not fully understand and which in any case cannot be recovered Levin uses this bipartisan politics of nostalgia to explain both the emptiness and profitlessness of present day politics, and also to explain many key modern social phenomena, especially the bifurcation of many aspects of economics and culture into two stratified groups The second part of the book looks at the implications of this new understanding for, as the subtitle says, Renewing America s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism At its core, this is a sustained call for a new politics of subsidiarity the revitalization of the middle, non governmental structures of society Levin begins with the premise that since 2000, Americans have faced a frustrating time Economically many Americans have not done well Culturally there has been enormous division and problems In response, both parties have tended to become openly nostalgic for an earlier time For liberals, that time was about 1950 to the late 1960s, where high wages co existed with growth, government and business cooperated, activism was au courant, and individual choices became vastly greater For conservatives, it was the early 1960s, where there was a perceived societal consensus on social issues, increasing economic liberalization, and before everything came apart, in Charles Murray s words Alternatively, for conservatives, it was the Reagan years, echoing the early 1960s and supposedly showing, after the awful 1970s, that we can, in fact, go back again.Levin thinks much of this nostalgia is misplaced or exaggerated Butimportantly, he shows, in detail, that whatever else those past times were, they were unique They were unique because they existed as part of a one time transition that of a highly consolidated society as it liberalized across the board, such that for a time it was able to reap the benefits of consolidation while not facing the downsides of unfettered individual choice That transition is over, and we can never return to that time, whether throughgovernment ortax cuts The powerful nostalgia for the 1950s and early 1960s that so dominates our politics is, in essence, a longing for a safe and stable backdrop for various forms of liberalization be it toward a culture of expressive individualism or toward market economics Levin takes the reader on a history tour, noting that America was born largely decentralized and localized, with relatively little national cohesion Post Civil War, industrialization led to centralization and industrial consolidation, the Age Of Conformity The resulting dislocations and problems led to political reforms that createdcentralization, primarily under the progressive banner, with a consequent erosion in the intermediating institutions of society The progressives argued that joint social action could only be effective at the national level They were far less interested in the mediating layers of society local authority, for instance, or private associations which they considered unequal to the task of helping Americans handle the increasingly massive scale of the nation s life Technology reinforced this consolidation, from mass media to railroads World War I further increased both centralization and national coalescence, and then the Great Depression, ensuing changes in constitutional interpretation allowing massive increases in federal power, and World War II brought the process to its high point.Then America began to unwind, and to seek some relief from the intense cohesion that had been building for so long Conformity came under immediate and sustained attack from taste and opinion makers, from Benjamin Spock to J.D Salinger Nor was this a liberal thing conservatives, driven in part by opposition to Communism, similarly mostly lionized individualism in a way unthinkable even a decade earlier The movement for black civil rights followed close behind But, crucially, none of the downsides of individual choice, notably atomization and social isolation, had yet reared their heads.But as this unwinding progressed, economically and socially, America still seemed to have the best of both worlds The 1950s economy was exceedingly regulated and constrained, as a result of decades of coalescence, yet due to America s global position after the war, economic growth was very strong Strong unions kept wages high but low for women and black people , creating both overall prosperity and compressed wage bands i.e., low income inequality Individualism increased But this happy medium of increased individuality with increasing prosperity was merely a happenstance, possible only during the unwinding of the old order Americans in this time could therefore take for granted some of the benefits of consolidationwhile actively combating some of its least attractive downsides And what are those downsides Levin points to two major areas fragmentation on the individual level, and paradoxically greater government power and reach As to fragmentation, In liberating many individuals from oppressive social constraints, we have also estranged many from their families and unmoored them from their communities, work and faith In accepting a profusion of options in every part of our lives to meet our particular needs and wants, we have also unraveled the institutions of an earlier era, and with it the public s broader faith in institutions of all kinds And as to government power and reach, A dministrative centralization often accompanies cultural and economic individualism As the national government growscentralized, and takes over the work otherwise performed by mediating institutions from families and communities to local governments and charities individuals become increasingly atomized and as individuals grow apart from one another, the need for centralized government provision seems to grow In this latter insight, Levin is indebted, as he acknowledges, to Robert Nisbet s prescient 1953 book The Quest For Community, which first pointed out that Leviathan grows as intermediary institutions decay, since people seek meaning, and when they cannot obtain meaning on the local level, they will turn to national meaning, thus strengthening the central state while obtaining only counterfeit meaning Levin s response, throughout his book, is to call for a restoration of these intermediary institutions The middle layers of society, where people see each other face to face, offer a middle ground between radical individualism and extreme centralization We should work toward a modernized politics of subsidiarity that is, of putting power, authority, and significance as close to the level of the interpersonal community as reasonably possible But before Levin gets to his recommendations, he continues his history tour The death of conformity brought on the Age Of Frenzy The late 1960s and the 1970s showed the costs of the erosion of conformity, with economic chaos stagflation, unemployment coupled with social transformation resulting from the the me decade, accompanied by massive increases in crime, broken families, and overall narcissism and consequent alienation At the same time, individual choice was undeniably increased, leading to at least potential fulfilment for many A powerful sense of growing instability and unraveling, or growing individualism and liberalism, thus prevailed in the culture of the 1970s While both Right and Left saw the problems, even if they did not necessarily agree on what were all the problems, neither pushed a return to conformity Instead, new norms were rooted in the new ethic of individualism but geared to giving people s lives some stability and structure Over time, the upper segments of society re normed, with strong wages and strong social and family structures The lower segments did not, thus creating a bifurcation one of Levin s overriding themes, echoing Charles Murray, that society at the top and bottom is very different today, in undesirable ways However, The Twentieth Century ended better than Americans in the 1970s would have had any reason to expect In part this was because economic liberalization created enough prosperity that most people feltsecure But socially, loneliness and isolation increased, as elective affinities failed to substitute for the older traditional ties And society further bifurcated, with those at the top doing better not only economically, but socially and culturally.Although America recovered from the 1970s nadir, things have not continued their upward arc After a period of stabilization, we entered the Age Of Anxiety, and we are in it now Economic growth and productivity are stagnant public institutions are sclerotic and unsuited for our diffuse and decentralizing society, and there has been a trend toward detachment from some core sources of social order and meaning, especially the family Levin does not think it all uniformly dreadful the Internet is, in fact, well suited to a diffuse and decentralizing society but, like other forms of elective affinity, the Internet encourages weak and shallow social bonds, a problem pre existing the Internet, not caused by it Bifurcation continues the upper segments of American society are richer andstable the lower segments poorer and less stable He notes the middle class has mostly moved up the problem is that those at the bottom are unable to rise The Left blames economic instability The Right blames cultural disintegration Both predict cataclysm Levin, ever the optimist, doesn t but he does argue that our current path is may not be compatible with human flourishingwe are stuck in a rut, and getting out of it will require understanding it No moment of change will be forced upon us, so if we are to revive the fortunes of the least among us, we will need to act But we can t act by going back Our society is a diffuse and still diffusing democracy, and this fact must help shape our understanding of both the problems we confront and any plausible solutions Any policy that relies on significantly counteracting diffusion is likely to prove foolhardy This also explains, although Levin doesn t mention it, why gun rights have becomepopular in our country, while other socially conservative positions have foundered It s because gun rights are philosophically aligned with a diffuse society focused on individual rights, unlike other socially conservative positions Levin then turns to his recommendations for reinvigorating human flourishing in our country First, discussing The Unbundled Market, he addresses economics, rejecting again the politics of nostalgia He notes that, whatever Arthur Laffer says, this is not 1979, and past prescriptions will solve little Levin addresses the economic challenges of diffusion and specialization, specifically with respect to globalization, automation, immigration and consumerization, especially as those affect the bifurcated nature of modern society He notes that, contrary to conservative myth, the data suggest that relative mobility has been remarkably stable and remarkably low for at least the past five decades in the United States Levin therefore calls for a mobility agenda, consisting of ways to allow the lower segments of society to rise Here, Levin rejects a larger government role he calls for reducing government barriers and increasing education, not through top down mechanisms, but through decentralized solutions The idea in each case is to channel power and resources to the mediating institutions of society and allow for bottom up problem solving that takes a variety of specialized, adapted forms Perhaps there s too much optimism here, and the Left will probably think this is too free market oriented although Levin would say that s merely nostalgia for the days of consolidated government and society, and also that part of his call is for public, i.e., governmental, options as competitive alternatives , but you don t know until you try.Levin s final chapter of analysis is Subculture Wars Here he discusses, as the reigning spirit of this era, expressive individualism It is a drive both to belike whatever you already are and also to live in society by fully asserting who you are This chapter is so packed with cogent, original analysis and thoughts that I cannot possibly do it justice In brief, Levin ascribes our social transformation, in both its good and bad aspects and, unlike many conservatives, he sees much good in this transformation , to this spirit But the transformation, well intention itself, broke a consolidated consensus that contrary to common modern assumption was itself well intentioned, and the transformation had innumerable unintended bad consequences Among them are fragmentation and alienation citing Nisbet, and also Robert Putnam , the destruction of the nuclear family and consequent poverty and other ills, and, again, the bifurcation of society.Levin notes that conservatives are wrong to think that most people have fallen away from a core, and conservative, moral and religious consensus Instead, most people were always merely fellow travelers to what was the then dominant consensus And now they are not, for it is no longer the consensus The same percentage of people are strongly religious and conservative as always were but there are fewer of them than those people believed Yes, that norm was a source of great strength and stability But it s gone, and the new norm of expressive individualism does not provide the same strength and stability Conservatives should not lament, nor should they predict a cataclysm that is unlikely to come and Levin also thinks that the Left has reached its high tide they will merely destroy what credibility with larger society they have left Instead, both Left and Right should work on a positive argument for restoring cultural intermediaries everything from church groups to bridge clubs to labor organizations , which will knit society together and, perhaps, move society in the direction that conservatives broadly want, if the results appeal to the larger society This is very much not the Remnant of Isaiah and Albert Jay Nock Levin s program is meant to reforge the country, not preserve virtue in sheltered corners until some distant future revival, which Levin would criticize as the worst type of politics of nostalgia Levin s vision, of course, has much in common with Rod Dreher s Benedict Option, which Levin specifically discusses The idea is roughly Dreher has a book coming out in 2017 that will clearly define his vision that conservatives, andbroadly those dissatisfied with today s culture, should focus on local, small scale activities and institutions, thereby providing both satisfaction and happiness for themselves and their families, and also showing an appealing way of life to the broader culture, by modeling appealing alternatives This is not a physical separation, but a change of focus This is a revival of community, not a political action And such local action is in tune, rather than in opposition to, the spirit of the age, since it is decentralized and diffuse action based on individual choice leaving aside the problem of increased government centralization and reach.Finally, in One Nation, After All, Levin brings together his analysis, his prescriptions, and his vision of freedom He notes the dysfunction and polarization of modern politics, and focuses on two matters First, such polarization is the historical norm But second, today s polarization is created less by policy differences andby nostalgia If each side would offer constructive visions of the future, applying their insights to today s different circumstances, rather than policy prescriptions driven by nostalgia, the ineffectual nature of modern politics could change and a real movement, hopefully for the better and focused around subsidiarity and intermediary institutions, could begin.Levin notes that on a philosophical level, although this is the age of diffusion and individualism, we as a society must recognize although he admits it is not a novel insight that The liberty we can truly recognize as liberty is achieved by the emancipation of the individual not just from coercion by others but also from the tyranny of his unrestrained desires A fuller idea of freedom than the one we now incline toward turns out to be a precondition for the actual practice and preservation of freedom in our time Oddly, Levin nowhere mentions Russell Kirk, the modern conservative philosopher of such ordered liberty, but I suppose tight writing requires few sidebar discussions Here Levin lays out his explicit case for subsidiarity, under which intermediaries can bridge and heal the bifurcation of society Subsidiarity means no one gets to have their way exclusively And that is what freedom means, too Levin believes that we can have our cake and eat it too We can have increased social good and still maintain individual choice in key matters Last two paragraphs of the review are in the comments Yuval Levin does an amazing job in diagnosing how the current leadership of the Democrat and Republican Parties are blinded by nostalgia for bygone eras that were only ever going to be temporary and are impossible to recapture He makes the case that the US has for decades been undergoing a de consolidation of sorts and that politicians seem blind to this larger trend He then points out the problems this is causing with the current political dialogue The second part is ideas about where to go Yuval Levin does an amazing job in diagnosing how the current leadership of the Democrat and Republican Parties are blinded by nostalgia for bygone eras that were only ever going to be temporary and are impossible to recapture He makes the case that the US has for decades been undergoing a de consolidation of sorts and that politicians seem blind to this larger trend He then points out the problems this is causing with the current political dialogue The second part is ideas about where to go from here I found this part of the book to be much weaker It isof a philosophical argument than a practical one It also seemed quite repetitive, to the point that I quit reading with 20 pages to go It was also overdue from the library.Overall I recommend it for the fresh view it gives of today s political situation In my quest to read from many perspectives, I picked up this book, which was a good read I thought the first half was very good, with an analysis of the paralysis of nostalgia for both political parties But his cultural analysis was flat, and the second half of the book seemed to be filled with vague opinions Expressive individualism.points toward moral chaos But his bottom line prescription fits for all perspectives work locally, whether through civic groups, churches, non profit In my quest to read from many perspectives, I picked up this book, which was a good read I thought the first half was very good, with an analysis of the paralysis of nostalgia for both political parties But his cultural analysis was flat, and the second half of the book seemed to be filled with vague opinions Expressive individualism.points toward moral chaos But his bottom line prescription fits for all perspectives work locally, whether through civic groups, churches, non profit associations This book started out mildly interesting both Democrats and Republicans are nostalgic for the good times but isn t everyone always nostalgic for the good times Levin s discussion of economic issues was fine, although he conveniently left out many details most notably the impact of the criminal justice system on entrenched poverty that didn t suit his conservative agenda By the time he got to the culture wars, I was flat out pissed Blah blah blah traditional families are great Blah bl This book started out mildly interesting both Democrats and Republicans are nostalgic for the good times but isn t everyone always nostalgic for the good times Levin s discussion of economic issues was fine, although he conveniently left out many details most notably the impact of the criminal justice system on entrenched poverty that didn t suit his conservative agenda By the time he got to the culture wars, I was flat out pissed Blah blah blah traditional families are great Blah blah blah gay people wanting to get married infringes on my liberty, instead they should, just what exactly In the final chapter, Levin concludes that all of this would be fixed ifof our leaders were like Paul Ryan and then I stopped reading Mostly poli sci babble but I like the term selective nostalgia as a description of the glorious past that both the right and left yearn for. Americans Today Are Frustrated And Anxious Our Economy Is Sluggish, And Leaves Workers Insecure Income Inequality, Cultural Divisions, And Political Polarization Increasingly Pull Us Apart Our Governing Institutions Often Seem Paralyzed And Our Politics Has Failed To Rise To These Challenges No Wonder, Then, That Americans And The Politicians Who Represent Them Are Overwhelmingly Nostalgic For A Better Time The Left Looks Back To The Middle Of The Twentieth Century, When Unions Were Strong, Large Public Programs Promised To Solve Pressing Social Problems, And The Movements For Racial Integration And Sexual Equality Were Advancing The Right Looks Back To The Reagan Era, When Deregulation And Lower Taxes Spurred The Economy, Cultural Traditionalism Seemed Resurgent, And America Was Confident And Optimistic Each Side Thinks Returning To Its Golden Age Could Solve America S Problems In The Fractured Republic, Yuval Levin Argues That This Politics Of Nostalgia Is Failing Twenty First Century Americans Both Parties Are Blind To How America Has Changed Over The Past Half Century As The Large, Consolidated Institutions That Once Dominated Our Economy, Politics, And Culture Have Fragmented And Become Smaller, Diverse, And Personalized Individualism, Dynamism, And Liberalization Have Come At The Cost Of Dwindling Solidarity, Cohesion, And Social Order This Has Left Us With Choices In Every Realm Of Life But Less Security, Stability, And National UnityBoth Our Strengths And Our Weaknesses Are Therefore Consequences Of These Changes And The Dysfunctions Of Our Fragmented National Life Will Need To Be Answered By The Strengths Of Our Decentralized, Diverse, Dynamic NationLevin Argues That This Calls For A Modernizing Politics That Avoids Both Radical Individualism And A Centralizing Statism And Instead Revives The Middle Layers Of Society Families And Communities, Schools And Churches, Charities And Associations, Local Governments And Markets Through Them, We Can Achieve Not A Single Solution To The Problems Of Our Age, But Multiple And Tailored Answers Fitted To The Daunting Range Of Challenges We Face And Suited To Enable An American Revival More detailed review coming, but this book was a thoughtful and enjoyable analysis of America from the conservative perspective offering America a path forward.

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