Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

The Future of Liberalism

boisi center for religion and american public life




A compelling and deeply felt exploration and defense of liberalism: what it actually is, why it is relevant today, and how it can help our society chart a forward course.

The Future of Liberalism represents the culmination of four decades of thinking and writing about contemporary politics by Alan Wolfe, one of America’s leading scholars, hailed by one critic as “one of liberalism’s last and most loyal sons.”

Wolfe makes it clear that before liberalism can be successfully applied to today’s problems, it needs to be recovered, understood, and embraced—not just by Americans but by all modern people—as the most beneficial way to live in our complex modern world. The Future of Liberalism is a crucial, enlightening, and immensely rewarding step in that direction.




On Point with Tom Ashbrook

WBUR, March 2, 2009

Brookings Institution (audio)
April 16 -- Moderated by William Galston; with E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Ross Douthat



Patrick Keeney in the National Post.

Timothy Renick in the Christian Century.

Michael Skube in the News & Observer.

Tim Warden in the Austin Chronicle.
Gary Hart in The New York Times.
Elbert Ventura in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Glenn C. Altschuler in the Boston Globe.

K. Anthony Appiah in Slate.

Bob Moser in the Texas Observer.

Review from the Economist.

Audio version of review from The Economist:







Alan Wolfe is the founding director of the Boisi Center and Professor of Political Science at Boston College. He is author of more than a dozen books, including, most recently, The Future of Liberalism (Knopf, 2009), Does American Democracy Still Work? (Yale University Press, 2006), One Nation After All (Penguin, 1999), Return to Greatness (Princeton University Press, 2005), The Transformation of American Religion: How We actually Practice our Faith (Free Press, 2003), and Moral Freedom (W.W. Norton & Company, 2001). Widely considered one of the nation's most prominent public intellectuals, he is a frequent contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Republic and The Atlantic, and has delivered lectures across the United States and Europe. (more...)


From the publisher




“Alan Wolfe has written a small masterpiece of political thought: deeply learned, pragmatic and principled, appropriately self-critical, and a pleasure to read. It is an essential book for anyone who hopes liberalism will prosper again or wonders why it should.”
-Michael Kazin, author of A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan

“Alan Wolfe restores luster to the original ideals of liberty and equality, but also shows liberalism’s pragmatic side–its recognition of the need for governance at home and leadership abroad. He shows that liberals, too, can have a ‘purpose driven life’ if they just reclaim their legacy.”
-Mark Lilla, author of The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics, and the Modern West

“In this wise, passionate, and persuasive book, Alan Wolfe draws on decades of reflection and scholarship to elucidate and champion one of the most important concepts of the human enterprise. While fully living up to its title by providing hope and guidance for the century just begun, The Future of Liberalism is also a tour de force of intellectual history–and an astute commentary on the great political issues of our time.”
-Strobe Talbott, author of The Great Experiment

“This book requires your attention. Liberalism in America cannot be dead. It is at the center of its history. But Americans should know why. Alan Wolfe tells us in a book of impressive scholarship and wide reach.”
-Jeff Madrick, author of The Case for Big Government

“Alan Wolfe and I disagree on many things, but as a defender and thinker about the liberal philosophy in America, he is one of the best. The Future of Liberalism is typical of that. I continue to learn from Alan when I read him, and so doing helps me define and refine my positions and thinking. Alan is always worth the read.”
-William J. Bennett, author of America: The Last Best Hope

“For all the fountains of ink and miles of bandwidth expended in trying to make sense of Barack Obama’s politics, the soundest explanation I’ve come across is contained in The Future of Liberalism, a book that mentions the president-elect just once, in passing . . . The liberalism that Wolfe explains and Obama exemplifies is a politics of hope and faith . . . As befits the kind of intellectualism he sees as a defining virtue of liberalism, Wolfe’s arguments are nuanced and twisty . . . This book is the best guide I know to sussing out what Obama’s liberalism means.”
-Bob Moser, The Texas Observer

“A terrific analysis of the last 300-plus years of political thought . . . it’s hard not to find his argument persuasive and harder still to not to wonder where American liberalism’s defenders have been hiding all these years. If readers have ever wondered where they should stand in regard to the culture wars, American interventionism abroad, or the role of government in society, this book will provide a coherent, convincing set of values to guide them . . . Highly recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in politics or history.”

“Erudite and insightful.”