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The Beginning of Liberalism: Reexamining the Political Philosophy of John Locke

Edited by: Will R. Jordan
Product Code: P640
ISBN: 9780881468373
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The dominant public philosophy of the United States of America has long been some version of liberalism--dedicated to individual liberty, equal rights, religious freedom, government by consent, and established limits on political power. Today, however, we today find ourselves in unusual times, when the major political parties have powerful and growing wings that embrace decidedly illiberal public philosophies. On the Left, critical theory eschews Enlightenment rationalism and liberal ideas of toleration and individual liberty as structures that serve to support inequality and oppression. On the Right, conservative scholars excoriate liberalism for privileging an ideal of individual autonomy that eats away at the civilizing bonds of family, tradition, religion, and country. What seems new here is not the critiques themselves, but the power and popularity of political movements that openly and proudly reject the first principles of America's long-dominant public philosophy. Can the center hold? Can the principles of 1776 survive? Or has liberalism run its course? With these questions in the air, this book proposes to return with fresh eyes to the beginning of liberalism and the political philosophy of John Locke. Instead of looking at Lockean liberalism as a simple and timeworn ideological program, the essays reexamine Locke's project by remaining alive to the complexity and nuance with which he addressed his subject. The Locke that emerges is indeed an ambitious and radical thinker, but one not as imprudent or unmindful of custom as his conservative critics would have it, nor as tolerant of oppression as his progressive critics aver. Contributors include Nasser Behnegar, Steven Forde, Peter Josephson, Rita Koganzon, J. Judd Owen, Gabrielle Stanton Ray, and Scott Yenor.
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