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tv   Yuval Levin A Time to Build  CSPAN  February 15, 2020 1:42pm-1:52pm EST

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[inaudible background conversations] we are alive today from the savanna book festival. our coverage continues in just a few minutes. [inaudible background conversations] we will be back with more live from savannah and just a little bit. while we wait we wanted to tell you about our in-depth guest for the month of april. the american enterprise institute's ãbwill sit down with us to discuss his books and career. and answer your questions. here's a previous appearance he has made on booktv. >> we americans are in a sense living through a social crisis. we can see that in everything from vicious polarization and rapid culture war incident resentments and upsurge of sight as isolation and alienation, despair that is sent suicide rates climbing and driven an epidemic of opioid abuse in recent years these are deep dysfunctions and seemingly very different parts of our society but they seem to have common roots and yet it's not
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easy to say what exactly those routes are what exactly has gone wrong. the crisis part of the symptoms is that we can't quite seem to get a handle on just what that is. traditional economic concerns don't cut it as explanations. we went through a severe recession 2007 2008 but ended more than a decade ago and we've now been living through one of the longest economic expansions in the modern era we are very low unemployment and inflation and interest rates wages are rising it's not that some americans are suffering economically but the problems we have on that front door really add up to the enormous crisis were going to, other familiar kinds of measures of well-being don't offer obvious explanations either. americans are as healthy and safe as we've ever been. you might say where we complaining about? some people argue there isn't anything to complain about or that the frustration and anxiety that seem to overwhelm us now are rooted in some kind
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of imaginary grievances driven by our politics that they themselves might be the problem. steven pinker of harvard takes these kinds of complaints to be what he describes as irritable gestures of self-indulgence and gratitude. in a recent book he looks over mountains of data and wealth and health and safety and choice. he says they are dangerous, indiscriminate pessimism can lead to fatalism to wondering why we should throw time and money at hopeless cause and can lead to radicalism to cause to smash the machine or drain the swamp or empower a charismatic tyrant. but shirley although these kinds of responses are understandable in part, public frustration is not just some kind of self-delusion especially frustration that runs this deep that's revealed itself in such a broad range of
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symptoms. neither are encouraging economic indicators but if thieves don't explain the ãb what signs we might be missing. usual measures of wealth and health and personal freedom don't explain the problem because those familiar indicators, important as they are to understanding our society are largely material and individual. they assess our well-being on our own but none of us can really experience while being on our own. it's exactly in the joints of society at the junctures of individuals the intricacies of life that trouble really shows itself. one way to put that point is that many of our struggles seem rooted in relational problems. loneliness, isolation, mistrust, suspicion, alienation, polarization, these are the kinds of problems we have now. they are failures of sociality. they fall into a blind spot for a very individualist culture.
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some people argue that the trouble is fundamentally philosophical and metaphysical that liberalism is failed because it fails to offer us a sufficient vocabulary or architecture solidarity. other people say although traditional measures of growth and prosperity might look fine our problem is still economic in a deeper sense of socioeconomic. they say contemporary capitalism creates levels of inequality that make it impossible for people to feel like equal parts of a larger whole or to believe and legitimacy of our political economic order. other people suggest external pressures like trade or immigration or internal pressures like racism or identity politics have left us incapable of hanging together. there is some truth to all these things. they all get something important right because they treat the human person as embedded in a larger hole whether physical or moral or social or economic and they see that what's wrong now has to do with the way in which we live out that embeddedness. i think they still are missing
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something crucial, when we think about our problems in these ways, we tend to imagine our society as a vast open space that's full of people who are to having trouble linking hands. we talk about breaking down walls or building bridges or leveling playing fields. casting some kind of unifying narrative but there is a missing step between joining together and recovering the longing and trust and legitimacy. what we are missing although we too rarely put it this way is a structure, a shape for our social life a way to get purpose and concrete meeting and identity to things we do together. if american life is a big open space is not a space filled with individuals. it's a space filled with structures of social life. as a space filled with institutions. if we are too often failing to foster belonging and legitimacy and trust emma more than a failure of connection we confront the failure of
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institutions. institutions do a lot more than connect us and understanding our social crisis in terms of what they are and what they do could help us to see the crisis in a new light. that's the understanding is that this book tries to advance. what is an institution? it won't surprise you to learn that there are a lot of different academic definitions of the term. the book thinks through a number of these but for our purposes let me suggest a general definition that draws together a lot of the academic work but also looks toward the problems we confront in our society now. by institutions i mean the durable forms of our common life. the shapes, the structures what we do together. some institutions are really organizations, they have something like a corporate form a university or hospital or school or business, civic association committees are all institutions technically legally formalize. some institutions are durable forms of different kind may be shaped by laws or norms or
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rules without a corporate structure. the family, for example, is an institution in some ways the first and foremost institution of every society. we can talk about the institution of marriage or put particular tradition a profession as an institution. the rule of law itself is an institution. that there durable is essential institution keeps its general shape over time so it shapes the realm of life in which it might be said to operate. usually changes only very gradually and incrementally. flash mobs don't count in institutions. most important, what's it distinct is it's a form it's a structure and contour. it's the shape of the whole. the organization that speaks of its purpose and its logic and function and meaning. a social form an institution is not just a bunch of people, it's a bunch of people order together to achieve a purpose to pursue a goal to advance an ideal and that means institutions are also by their
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nature, formative. they structure our interactions. and as a result they structure us they shape our habits, expectations, ultimately they shape our characters and shape our souls. they help to form us and that formative role has a lot to do with how institutions relate to the social crisis that we are living through now. let me say a word about that. when we think about the role of institutions in american life now we might tend to think first in terms of our loss of trust or confidence in institutions. we talk about that a lot it's a trend we hear a lot about. measures are very easy to find and paint a very grim picture. gallup has kept track of what calls americans confidence in institutions for decades. the news media, the academy, it's founded confidence in our institutions has been plummeting consistently. >> join us for all events alive
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in depth conversation april 5 at noon eastern. in the meantime, watch any of his previous booktv appearances at you are looking live at trinity united methodist church, home of the savanna book festival. we will be back with more author programs in just a few minutes. while we wait for the next author event to begin, we want to show you a portion of this


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