Writer Adam Gopnik On The New Threats To Liberalism | WYPR

Writer Adam Gopnik On The New Threats To Liberalism

Aug 31, 2020

Adam Gopnik, author and staff writer at The New Yorker
Credit Photo by Brigitte Lacombe

(This program was originally broadcast live on  July 28, 2020)

Tom's guest is Adam Gopnik, a staff writer for The New Yorker Magazine for the past 34 years.  The author of numerous books, including eclectic essay collections and children's novels, Gopnik's latest is an homage to liberalism. 

The book explores liberalism's roots with the French Renaissance philosopher, Michel de Montaigne, and the so-called Age of Enlightenment, and traces its history through the present day.  Gopnik observes that liberalism was preceded by humanism and the affection for and elevation of a sense of community, forged around shared choices.  He calls it a fact-first philosophy with a feelings-first history.  It favors reform over revolution.  It is premised in love and empathy, and what he calls  “a belief that the sympathy that binds human society together can disconnect us from our clannish & suspicious past.”

Credit Cover art courtesy Basic Books/Hatchett Book Group


While most people associate liberalism with a left-leaning world view, to Gopnik’s eye, it occupies a kind of intellectual center, although it is not to be confused with centrism, which Gopnik suggests is more akin to populism. 

The book is called A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism (Basic Books). Tom spoke with Adam Gopnik about the book when it came out last summer.  It’s just been released in paperback, with a new Afterword that addresses what the author describes as the intensifying threats to liberalism from authoritarians on the right, and the left.

Tom welcomes Adam Gopnik back for the hour today.  He joins us via Zoom from his home in New York.