How Nostalgia Fractured Our Republic

Collin Hansen | July 12, 2016

At this point in the presidential campaign, it’s safe to say that whatever happens in November won’t heal what ails America. We’re likely to emerge at least as divided, if not more so, than we are right now. Who, then, will pick up the pieces? What can bring us together?

Writing in his new book, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism, Yuval Levin observes, “Life in America is always getting better and worse at the same time.” He identifies nostalgia as a major barrier to finding unifying solutions for persistent problems. And he insists that we cannot simply turn the clock back to the 1950s or 1960s and once again enjoy the unity and prosperity of those post-war years.

Since World War II, Levin writes: 

In our cultural, economic, political, and social life, this has been a trajectory of increasing individualism, diversity, dynamism, and liberalization. And it has come at the cost of dwindling solidarity, cohesion, stability, authority, and social order. . . . We have grown less conformist but more fragmented; more diverse but less unified; more dynamic but less secure.

Yuval Levin joins me for this episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast…

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