The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism

In This Review

The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism
By Yuval Levin
Basic Books, 2016
272 pp.
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Levin is a man without a party; along with other “reformicons” (reform conservatives), Levin has been left out in the cold by Donald Trump’s capture of the GOP. But even if Levin won’t be asked to write policy memos for the next president, The Fractured Republic makes important contributions to the national debate that will resonate on both sides of the aisle. He starts from the position that since the 1950s, American society has steadily lifted restrictions on individualism. The left welcomes the diversity of lifestyles and the enhanced capacity for self-expression among minorities that this shift has brought, but deplores the economic individualism and inequality it has also encouraged. The right takes the opposite view: economic individualism, good; breakdown of public conformity to Judeo-Christian norms on sex and family, bad. Yet as Levin notes, both sides yearn for the sense of solidarity and national unity associated with the postwar era. Levin suggests that, rather than indulging in misplaced nostalgia, both the left and the right should think about how to build a new and more inclusive national identity that reflects and welcomes the diversity of American life in the twenty-first century.

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