Fidelity to Place.” James Matthew Wilson speaks on behalf of honoring our unchosen bonds: “What is missing from modern life is fidelity—and not just fidelity in general, but fidelity to those things that are given us and that we can never, at least fully, choose for ourselves. By this I mean our places of birth—our block, our neighborhood, our village, our state—and the families and communities into which we were born.”

Is Anyone at Home in Northern Ireland?” Aris Roussinos mulls Northern Ireland’s fraught relationship with farm houses and the sense of place they evoke: “For all its political uncertainty, or perhaps because of it, Northern Ireland’s cultural output possesses a complex, unaffected sense of place and continuity distinct from, and perhaps increasingly foreign to, both the British mainland and the Republic. A traditional Ulster farmhouse has no foundations, built directly on the heavy soil: but it is no less solid or homely for that, and will sit sturdily on its squat fieldstone haunches long after the political certainties of today have washed away.”

Regime Change for America.” Patrick Deneen’s new book is out this week. FPR ran two reviews, and for the gist of at least part of the book’s argument, you can read this distillation: “The party of the few, while potentially tyrannical, also enjoyed advantages that could be shared for the benefit of the many: leisure, refinement, liberal education, and high culture. The many, while potentially an ochlocracy, might also exemplify “homely” or ordinary virtues: earthiness, an acknowledgement of limits, an ethos of mutual reliance, rootedness, memory, and piety. Indeed, the virtues of each, if properly supported, cultivated, and maintained, could suppress the vicious tendencies of the other.”

“’I Don’t Want to Violently Overthrow the Government. I Want Something Far More Revolutionary.’” In a lengthy profile for Politico, Ian Ward traces Patrick Deneen’s intellectual development and pays particular attention to the influence of his professor and mentor Wilson Carey McWilliams (he also discusses Patrick’s role in launching FPR in 2009): “Deneen is under no illusion that his idea of regime change will come to pass before the next election. His more modest goal, he told me, is to convince people in positions of power to reject an ideal of progress that in practice enriches a small number of people while devastating local communities, destroying the natural environment and destabilizing the global economy.” (Recommended by Russell Arben Fox.)

The Outer Limits of Liberalism.” David Brooks considers the horrors of Canada’s MAID program and acknowledges how it reveals the flaws in “autonomy-based liberalism.” As a remedy, he proposes “gifts-based liberalism.” His sketch of this latter paradigm sounds quite good, but I’m not sure that it’s really a species of liberalism, at least not a liberalism that John Stuart Mill (with whom Brooks opens the essay) would recognize. “[Gifts-based liberalism] starts with a different core conviction: I am a receiver of gifts. I am part of a long procession of humanity. I have received many gifts from those who came before me, including the gift of life itself. The essential activity of life is not the pursuit of individual happiness. The essential activity of life is to realize the gifts I’ve been given by my ancestors, and to pass them along, suitably improved, to those who will come after.”

Deep States.” Wilfred M. McClay reviews Jon Lauck’s The Good Country and praises its contributions to a recovery of regional identity: “Sectionalism has been one of the great themes of American history, and the interplay among America’s urban, rural, and regional cultures has long been one of the most interesting factors in our national life. But the flattening and homogenization of the country over the course of the 20th century has rendered this aspect of our national life less and less visible, and hence less vibrant. The steady decline of genuinely independent regional and local newspapers and other news outlets is but one sign of this loss. Another is the fading interest in savoring the particularities of place: history, geography, culture, food, climate, local business, anything that distinguishes one locale from another.”

Poetry has Lost its Violence.” Justin E. H. Smith draws on Jerome Rothenberg and Nick Cave to probe the roots of poetry: “Poetry properly understood is the total art form, from which all the other modern art forms have been parted out. It is the art form that reckons with the violence of things, and continually sets our broken world back in order again.”

Do Math and Literature Have Anything in Common?” Micah Mattix reviews Once Upon a Prime, in which Sarah Hart “argues that literature is indebted to math for more than just metaphors. The two ‘are inextricably … linked’: ‘The universe is full of underlying structure, pattern, and regularity, and mathematics is the best tool we have for understanding it.’”

The Scrap Heap of Our Fantasies.” Sarah Clark reviews Eugene Vodolazkin’s new novel and considers its lessons for how we might view history: “As for people, so for nations: we must leave the future to fend for itself, place our hope in a merciful Savior, and learn to be human now.”

Why We Should Read Poetry.” Daniel Dorman commends the communal ends of poetry: “One of the great gifts of literature is the felt community between writer and reader; a good poem speaks to the reader, ‘even here, in the half-formed and up-until-now inarticulate reflections of your mind, in your tottering understandings of the world about you, many have gone before and have managed to tame the chaos of human experience – to capture it in fitting metaphor and pleasing rhyme.’ Good poetry shows us that we are not alone.”

Digital Appeasement.” Bonnie Kristian reviews David Auerbach’s Meganets, and while she finds his arguments generally compelling—and disturbing—she cautions that “the systems critique can go too far in absolving humans, as both individuals and institutions, of responsibility for the systems we build and to which we subject ourselves and one another. For all of its talk of an ‘inevitable’ and ‘irresistible’ descent into dystopia, Auerbach’s book itself shows cracks in the systems.”

The Coming Humanist Renaissance.” Adrienne LaFrance turns to the American Transcendentalists to respond to the rise of AI: “We should know by now that neither the government’s understanding of new technologies nor self-regulation by tech behemoths can adequately keep pace with the speed of technological change or Silicon Valley’s capacity to seek profit and scale at the expense of societal and democratic health. What defines this next phase of human history must begin with the individual.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


  1. As a Nebraska boy now living in Missouri, I enjoyed “Deep States” quite a bit and will be acquiring Jon Lauck’s The Good Country, soon. Thanks for sharing.

  2. While I’ve enjoyed the variety of thoughts found in many Water Dipper links, I can’t imagine anyone taking Deneen seriously. After reading and searching for some rational and real-world grounding in the latest from him, I’m confident that many academics really are disconnected from life.

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