In a thought-provoking review, Patrick Deneen’s book “Regime Change” presents a vision of the United States in the future. Deneen imagines a country where the lower chamber expands to 1000 elected representatives, accommodating a growing population. The electoral process shifts from a primary to a caucus-based system. The nation’s federal reserve board includes seats designated for wage earners, farmers, and small business owners, providing a counterbalance to the dominance of elite former investment bankers. Deneen envisions a society where domestic manufacturing is a priority, and private sector labor unions regain strength, complemented by European models of works councils.
One significant change Deneen suggests is the dispersal of federal agency headquarters across the country, creating opportunities for public servants without uprooting their lives. Additionally, every U.S. citizen would be obligated to spend a year serving their country in the military once they reach adulthood. Deneen proposes higher education financing reforms with increased federal funding rates for students attending public institutions, with the expectation that faculty and administrators refrain from engaging in activism. Furthermore, students at elite institutions would be encouraged to pursue careers outside of finance, consulting, and white shoe law firms, incentivized by generous student loan forgiveness programs for lower-paid professional vocations that contribute to the local and regional communities.
Deneen’s vision also tackles issues of morality and immigration. He advocates for a ban on pornography and a curtailing of illegal immigration through deterrence, enforcement strategies, and shaming employers who hire undocumented workers through a “moral media.” Furthermore, he proposes the creation of a “family czar,” a cabinet-level official in the federal government who advises on social programming and ensures policies that promote heterosexual nuclear family units, aligning with the concept of “common-good conservatism.”
Deneen’s book primarily targets America’s liberal ruling class. He views this class as a combination of progressive and classical liberals, working together under the banner of the liberal project. While acknowledging the influence of leftists from the past, Deneen believes their unwillingness to compromise on social and cultural issues renders them inadequate to bring about a postliberal order. However, he appreciates Marxism’s focus on the working class as a source of power but rejects its requirement for perpetual revolution. Instead, Deneen argues that the working class craves stability and continuity, which can be achieved by reviving eroded premodern institutions such as the church, family, and localized communities.
Deneen criticizes the impact of liberalism on various aspects of society. He uses the example of Indiana’s religious freedom law to illustrate how liberal social goals led to a national controversy, with major corporations threatening to withdraw economic presence. Deneen questions the enlightened corporate policies praised by the liberal elite and highlights their disdain for the masses. Under liberalism, maximal freedom and individual expression are promised, but traditions and customs from previous generations are sacrificed.
While Deneen offers programmatic solutions in the book’s final section, they may seem somewhat forced to provide a tidy conclusion. Despite the impact and attention his proposals receive, it remains unclear how a marginal group of Republicans could gain enough power in Washington to enact Deneen’s vision. Ultimately, the review expresses skepticism about the possibility of achieving such a societal transformation and suggests that raising class consciousness through mass politics may be a more viable path forward.