What We Lose When We Break Free (w/ Yuval Levin)

In defense of the social-political institutions that mould – and oppress – us.


Yuval Levin is a leading conservative thinker and political scientist who has, for quite some time, been contemplating the question: what’s gone wrong in America? We dive into his most recent book, A Time to Build, where he traces the long-term shriveling of our social institutions — from political parties to journalism to the academy — a process which, according to Yuval, supercharged the current trends of inequality, division, and political opportunism. Later on, we dare to get even nerdier than that and revisit Yuval’s historical study of Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine, and the lessons they still teach us.

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On the agenda:

  • -The Hitler question [4:26]

  • -Yuval, introduced [9:29]

  • -The difference between the left and right [13:28]

  • -Seeing things in institutional terms [16:36]

  • -Conformity, cohesion, and resistance [21:20]

  • -The strangeness of mid-century America [33:31]

  • -The social infrastructure that shapes us [38:39]

  • -The resilience of libraries and schools [42:30]

  • -Journalism as an institution [45:00]

  • -America's overly high expectations of the Academy [52:15]

  • -From the political to the performative (or how to fix Congress) [57:16]

  • -Being a conservative in the Trump era [1:12:14]

  • -On Burke, Paine, beauty, and truth [1:20:03]

  • -Space vs. Motion [1:27:28]

Uncertain Things is hosted and produced by Adaam James Levin-Areddy and Vanessa M. Quirk. For more doomsday thoughts, subscribe to: uncertain.substack.com.