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The Decomposition of Man

The Decomposition of Man

Identity, Technocracy, and the Church

By James Kalb

228 pp

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About the Book

Identity politics and novel identities are everywhere today. The Decomposition of Man takes on these issues in a new and illuminating way. The social crisis we are facing involves weakening traditional identities—man, woman, husband, wife, Catholic, American—and asserting constructed ones like “Latinx” and “nonbinary.” This is liberating, we are told. In reality, however, as the familial, religious, and communal arrangements by which people have hitherto lived unravel, they are taken over by commercial, bureaucratic, and state interests. And as human bonds weaken, confusions multiply, families fall apart, needs go unmet, and people forget who they are.

This book traces the present crisis back to such social changes as industrialization, globalization, and the technological ways of thinking that accompany them. An adequate response will require a renewed emphasis on tradition and natural law, as well as a turn toward local community and toward religion—in particular, Catholicism. That will certainly be an arduous labor, but current trends are clearly unsustainable. Kalb directs this indispensable book to all who wish to understand what lies behind developments that often seem so strange, and how to deal with the new and often threatening world now coming into being.


“Unlike James Kalb’s earlier works, which provide general critiques of liberalism and what Kalb defines as the concept of equal freedom for all, this text is oriented more specifically toward Catholic readers wrestling with the demons of the age. What unites all of Kalb’s work, however, is a trenchant investigation of the illusions of late modernity, beginning with the dangerously mistaken belief that individuals can invent their own identities. Kalb’s return to the thinking of the High Middle Ages represents a search for a point in Western history before the beliefs that he assails began to take hold.”


author of Antifascism: The Course of a Crusade


“In this starkly compelling book, James Kalb demonstrates the inherent contradictions and vacuous assumptions undergirding modern liberal society. For even though our Woke New World remains propped up by immense commercial, technocratic, and bureaucratic might, it can deliver nothing healthy, wholesome, or true. Instead, it merely manages people. In this relatively compact work, Kalb shows us the how and why. With the precision of a supreme marksman, he zeroes in on the underlying causes. As shot after shot finds its target, a house of cards collapses before our eyes.”


author of The Gentle Traditionalist


“After articulating the worldview of liberalism or progressivism more comprehensively (and honestly) than its own proponents do, James Kalb systematically dismantles it with deft philosophical argumentation. Shining the light of truth into the chthonic realm of ‘egalitarian hedonistic technocracy,’ Kalb vindicates the irreplaceable role of natural and traditional sources of identity and purpose, including a person’s sex, family commitments, culture, and religion. Simply masterful.”


author of The Ecstasy of Love in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas


“‘Industrialization,’ James Kalb argues, is ‘dehumanizing and to all appearances cannot stop being so.’ Quoting Emerson’s insight that it means ‘things are in the saddle and ride mankind,’ Kalb explores its deracinating and destabilizing role in the decline of the West. This is a bracing book about the dangers of severing man’s intellect from his labor. It also exposes the futility of the leisure state’s dependence on the liberal vision of human nature as essentially uncorrupted. Although Kalb offers no easy solution, ‘the future,’ he reminds us, ‘belongs to those who accept the truth about man and the nature of things.’”


Former Master at Eton College

About the Author

JAMES KALB lives in Brooklyn, NY. He comes by his interest in political theory naturally, through politically active parents and degrees in mathematics and law (Dartmouth B.A., Yale J.D.). His parents showed him the importance of participation, mathematics showed him the importance of how principles are stated, and law taught him to study decisions to identify the principles behind them. His previous books are The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI, 2008) and Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

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