In This Review

Liberalism and Its Discontents
Liberalism and Its Discontents
By Francis Fukuyama
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2022, 192 pp.

In this learned work, Fukuyama shows that liberalism’s great advantage over rival ideologies in the modern era has been its ability to create the political conditions that allow for the coexistence of an array of hallowed but often contradictory values: liberty, equality, individualism, and community. He argues that liberalism is now being challenged from both the right and the left, as older compromises over class and culture have broken down. Progressives decry liberalism as neoliberalism, as manifest in ruinous financial crises and growing inequality. Conservatives point to the elevation of personal autonomy and identity politics as a threat to traditional religious and cultural beliefs. According to Fukuyama, the extreme versions of these critiques will lead not to reform, compromise, and a rebalancing of principles but to a deeply divisive postliberal future. Right-wing forces may push their societies in the direction of authoritarianism, while those on the left will seek a more systemic redistribution of wealth and power, as well as the greater formal recognition of group, rather than individual, rights. Fukuyama sees the right-wing threats to liberalism as much more immediate and existential. But if liberalism is to survive, partisans across the political spectrum will need to find new grand compromises, rediscovering and forging national traditions of universal civic rights and shared political community.