The great virtue of Rachel Greenwald Smith’s essay collection, On Compromise, is to probe the broader allure of compromise in political thought, artistic expression, and pop culture ... The myopic, aestheticized rationale for liberal compromise is where Smith’s critical outlook comes into play most powerfully. Her book is strongest when she plumbs the distressing ways in which the formalist pieties of neoliberalism prepare the ground for fascist aesthetic sympathies ... This key insight, together with many of the other incisive arguments Smith trains on our rapidly fragmenting political and aesthetic landscape, poses a central challenge in the battle for both the liberal soul and the prospects for our democracy ... Perhaps, as detractors on the left and right increasingly insist, the house of liberalism has grown too rickety, complacent, and unmoored from the crisis of today’s republic to meet that challenge. But as Smith makes clear, the stakes of that failure could not be higher.
Insightful ... While some essays can meander, Greenwald Smith takes a commendably expansive view of the idea and practice of compromise, creating a nuanced look at a thorny subject. The result is a work of criticism as thoughtful as it is relevant.