Book club examines Professor Patrick Deneen’s latest book

Has liberalism failed because it has succeeded? Yale University Press poses this thought provoking question as an introduction to a recent publication—a new book by one of Notre Dame’s very own. This past January, Professor of Political Science Patrick Deneen published Why Liberalism Failed. In this, his seventh book, Deneen attempts to address the aforementioned question and draw attention to the perceived contradictions of the ideology which currently dominates the Western world.

Led by sophomore Nick Marr, Notre Dame students of various majors, classes, and political persuasions have formed a book club to read and discuss Deneen’s unique perspective. The club meets once a week in Geddes Hall and covers one or two chapters at a time.

The group of 24 has been formed largely of participants in several colloquiums, led by Professor Phillip Munoz of the Constitutional Studies and Tocqueville programs and sponsored by the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. Over the past year two weekend-long colloquiums have taken place, the first on the morality of capitalism and the second on toleration in a free society.

Marr told the Rover that he is involved in programming for two on-campus student groups, the American Enterprise Institute’s Executive Council and an Intercollegiate Studies Institute society. With the help and sponsorship of these two groups, and inspired by the success of the two colloquiums, Marr established the book club. Marr told the Rover, “The timing of Professor Deneen’s book was perfect, and we could not pass up the tremendous opportunity to read his book while being able to find him on campus to ask him questions (and maybe challenge him to debates!)”

On choosing Deneen’s book as the club’s first read, Marr remarked,  “The book presents controversial claims that are important to understand for the purpose of agreement or critique, an exercise that is good for any student.  But more importantly, the book offers easily-accessible and thoroughly-reasoned warnings about the harmful tendencies of liberalism that we, as participants in a liberal society, would do well to consider.”

One of the great points of emphasis in Why Liberalism Failed is the phenomenon that liberalism has come to be understood by its supporters as the inevitable end of human political evolution, an assumption which Deneen contests. Freshman Ellie Gardey, a participant in the student group, told the Rover, “This is a excellent opportunity to explore with other students the idea that liberalism is an ideology that is not necessarily certain in our world. I look forward to discussion with Professor Deneen upon completion of the book.”

By taking time out of their busy schedules to challenge commonly held assumptions and engage with their peers on an under discussed but all too important question of our time, these 24 savvy students are taking full advantage of the opportunity to study under professors who regularly contribute new scholarship to their areas of expertise. The students indeed hope to include Professor Deneen himself in discussions, if not debates, as the semester progresses.

Keenan White is a junior studying political science with minors in history and Constitutional Studies. To participate in some spirited free speech, you can email her at