Cover image for Reconsidering American liberalism : the troubled odyssey of the liberal idea
Title:
Reconsidering American liberalism : the troubled odyssey of the liberal idea
Author:
Young, James P., 1934-
ISBN:
9780813306476

9780813306483
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Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1996.
Physical Description:
xv, 437 p. ; 25 cm.
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Book BILKUTUP0202459 JC574.2.U6 Y68 1996 Central Campus Library
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Summary

Summary

Forty years ago Louis Hartz surveyed American political thought in his classic The Liberal Tradition in America. He concluded that American politics was based on a broad liberal consensus made possible by a unique American historical experience, a thesis that seemed to minimize the role of political conflict.Today, with conflict on the rise and with much of liberalism in disarray, James P. Young revisits these questions to reevaluate Hartz's interpretation of American politics. Young's treatment of key movements in our history, especially Puritanism and republicanism's early contribution to the Revolution and the Constitution, demonstrates in the spirit of Dewey and others that the liberal tradition is richer and more complex than Hartz and most contemporary theorists have allowed.The breadth of Young's account is unrivaled. Reconsidering American Liberalism gives voice not just to Locke, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Lincoln, and Dewey but also to Rawls, Shklar, Kateb, Wolin, and Walzer. In addition to broad discussions of all the major figures in over 300 years of political thought--with Lincoln looming particularly large--Young touches upon modern feminism and conservatism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, rights-based liberalism, and social democracy. Out of these contemporary materials Young synthesizes a new position, a smarter and tougher liberalism not just forged from historical materials but reshaped in the rough and tumble of contemporary thought and politics.This exceptionally timely study is both a powerful survey of the whole of U.S. political thought and a trenchant critique of contemporary political debates. At a time of acrimony and confusion in our national politics, Young enables us to see that salvaging a viable future depends upon our understanding how we have reached this point.Never without his own opinions, Young is scrupulously fair to the widest range of thinkers and marvelously clear in getting to the heart of their ideas. Although his book is a substantial contribution to political theory and the history of ideas, it is always accessible and lively enough for the informed general reader. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of U.S. political thought or, indeed, about the future of the country itself.


Summary

Forty years ago Louis Hartz surveyed American political thought in his classic The Liberal Tradition in America. He concluded that American politics was based on a broad liberal consensus made possible by a unique American historical experience, a thesis that seemed to minimize the role of political conflict.Today, with conflict on the rise and with much of liberalism in disarray, James P. Young revisits these questions to reevaluate Hartz's interpretation of American politics. Young's treatment of key movements in our history, especially Puritanism and republicanism's early contribution to the Revolution and the Constitution, demonstrates in the spirit of Dewey and others that the liberal tradition is richer and more complex than Hartz and most contemporary theorists have allowed.The breadth of Young's account is unrivaled. Reconsidering American Liberalism gives voice not just to Locke, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Lincoln, and Dewey but also to Rawls, Shklar, Kateb, Wolin, and Walzer. In addition to broad discussions of all the major figures in over 300 years of political thought'with Lincoln looming particularly large?Young touches upon modern feminism and conservatism, multiculturalism, postmodernism, rights-based liberalism, and social democracy. Out of these contemporary materials Young synthesizes a new position, a smarter and tougher liberalism not just forged from historical materials but reshaped in the rough and tumble of contemporary thought and politics.This exceptionally timely study is both a powerful survey of the whole of U.S. political thought and a trenchant critique of contemporary political debates. At a time of acrimony and confusion in our national politics, Young enables us to see that salvaging a viable future depends upon our understanding how we have reached this point.Never without his own opinions, Young is scrupulously fair to the widest range of thinkers and marvelously clear in getting to the heart of their ideas. Although his book is a substantial contribution to political theory and the history of ideas, it is always accessible and lively enough for the informed general reader. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about the future of U.S. political thought or, indeed, about the future of the country itself.


Table of Contents

Preface And Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introduction The Role of Liberalism in American Politicsp. 1
1 The Ambiguous Legacy of Puritanismp. 13
2 John Locke and the Theory of Liberal Constitutionalismp. 23
Conclusionsp. 37
3 Liberalism, Republicanism, and Revolutionp. 41
4 Liberalism, Republicanism, and the Constitutionp. 55
5 Defining the Constitutional Text and the Emergence of Party Politicsp. 73
6 Some Notes on Jacksonian Democracyp. 93
7 Abolition and the Crisis of Liberalismp. 107
8 Laissez-Faire Conservatism and the Legitimation of Corporate Capitalismp. 127
9 The Dilemmas of Populist Reformp. 137
Conclusionp. 147
10 The Problem of Progressivismp. 149
11 The New Deal and the Apotheosis of Reformp. 169
12 Liberalism in Search of New Directionsp. 181
13 Race, Gender, Difference, and Equalityp. 203
14 Liberalism in Retreat: The Conservative Critiquep. 235
15 Rights-Based Liberalismp. 269
16 Problems of Liberalism: Rights, Economy, Community, and the Statep. 287
17 Conclusionp. 327
Notesp. 343
About the Book and Authorp. 421
Indexp. 423