American politics is in a state of flux. The two major parties are closely divided. The range of political viewpoints expressed in national media widens every day. How did we reach this situation? And what political possibilities await the American people? 

In this course, we will examine the ideology of “neoliberalism” and several of its challengers. By close reading of primary and secondary sources, we will investigate the arguments, attitudes, and priorities of neoliberals, populists, nationalists, socialists, and post-liberals. Our class discussion will help us make sense of the last decade in American politics—and suggest where things may be headed from here. 

Image Credit: United States Capitol, Washington DC, October 31, 2019, Pierre Blanché via Flickr

Matthew Continetti on conservatism & populism


Matthew Continetti

Matthew Continetti is resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Prior to joining AEI, he was Editor in Chief of the Washington Free Beacon. His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.

Preview the Syllabus by Week/Session


Discussion Questions:

  1. According to Perry Anderson, what problems did neoliberalism set out to solve? Was it successful? 
  2. What problems does the post-industrial society create for liberalism, neo- or otherwise? 
  3. How does President Reagan’s announcement speech exemplify neoliberal approaches to public policy? 
  4. How does Ross Douthat define decadence? Is he right that contemporary American society is a decadent society? 


Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Caldwell define populism? 
  2. How does Jacksonian populism fit into Caldwell’s framework? 
  3. Why, according to Bell, did the American elite became increasingly pessimistic in its political and cultural outlook during the 1960s? 
  4. Is populism compatible with neoliberalism? 


Discussion Questions:

  1. In DeMuth’s view, what can other nations learn from the national self-determination of Ukraine? 
  2. What defines a nation, according to President Trump? 
  3. How might nationalism come into conflict with neoliberalism? 
  4. Compare and contrast President Trump’s defense of Polish nationalism with President Biden’s defense of Ukrainian democracy? Could the same arguments be made on behalf of both nations? 


Discussion Questions:

  1. What does Sanders mean by socialism? Is his definition like Sunkara’s? 
  2. What does Judis mean by “shadow socialism”?  
  3. Do income levels determine class affiliation? How might class identity and national (or sub-national) identity relate to one another? 
  4.  What made Caldwell argue that Biden’s popular front (composed of progressives, moderate Democrats, and even some anti-Trump Republicans) was doomed to fail? 


Discussion Questions:

  1. How does Deneen define liberalism? Is his liberalism the same as neoliberalism? What are the similarities and differences between liberalism, neoliberalism, and progressivism? 
  2. What, according to Schlueter, is the “healthy and proper form of liberalism,” and why should social conservatives embrace it? 
  3. How does the war in Ukraine relate to the problems of neoliberalism? 
  4. What is behind the collapse of globalization—i.e., of neoliberalism? 
  5. Will the future be liberal, neoliberal, national populist, democratic socialist, or postliberal?

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