The Tea Party Jacobins

I note this intriguing article by Mark Lilla in the New York Review of Books (May 27th). It is mostly about the US, but makes an intriguing point about the apparent fusion of the seemingly contradictory impulses of Sixties personal autonomy and Eighties economic liberalism. He argues that unlike many conservative movements, the new populism is not to do with rolling back the moral changes of the Sixties, and neither is it a traditional anti-capitalist movement: ‘The new Jacobins have two classic American traits that have grown much more pronounced in recent decades: blanket distrust of institutions and an astonishing—and unwarranted—confidence in the self. They are apocalyptic pessimists about public life and childlike optimists swaddled in self-esteem when it comes to their own powers.’

There is intriguing food for thought as to how far this is parallelled in a European and a British context.

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