Academia’s Holy Warriors

"In his remarks at the conference, Deneen voiced his own hesitation about social conservatives entering into another ignoble bargain, as they had in the days of the three-legged stool. Turning to the emblazoned conference title behind him as he began to speak, he issued a rebuke — polite, but not subtle — to the conference organizers who had emphasized the word “national” in the title at the expense of the word “conservative.” Meanwhile, in his scholarly work, Deneen is looking less to the post-liberal Catholics in Europe than to a more homegrown tradition. His next book revolves around the American historian Christopher Lasch, who began his career as a Marxist critic of capitalism and ended it as a defender of traditional values he felt were being undermined by elites in both political parties. “If you go back and read True and Only Heaven and The Revolt of the Elites” — two of Lasch’s late-career books of social criticism — “both were efforts to articulate deep discontent with both the meritocratic left and the Reagan-conservative right, using resources in the American populist tradition that from one perspective look conservative, and from another look left or progressive, but which really end up being something quite different,” Deneen said. “And that’s part of the tradition I see myself working in.”"