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The Liberal Tradition in America

3.6  ·  Rating Details ·  83 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
Hartz’s influential interpretation of american political thought since the Revolution. He contends that americanca gave rise to a new concept of a liberal society, a “liberal tradition” that has been central to our experience of events both at home and abroad. New Introduction by Tom Wicker; Index.
Paperback, 348 pages
Published July 29th 1991 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 1955)
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Jan 25, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ali Abdullah Saleh
Shelves: own, american-history
The uniqueness of the American political experience is that, lacking an ancien régime, we never had a social revolution, says Hartz, following de Tocqueville; we were "born equal." (I know, forget about slavery.) Unlike in Europe, there was no old structure for Americans to rebel against and destroy. This is why socialism never took hold in America. Our "national liberal faith," our "colossal liberal absolutism" (rooted in Locke), obviated the need for it.

This is a very fine-grained analysis of
Joseph Stieb
This is a really difficult book that would probably work better as an essay. Still, the main idea is really interesting. Hartz is trying to understand why the liberal tradition has been so dominant in American politics and culture and why Americans never developed a genuine socialist or fascist movement (i.e. politics between the 40 yard lines). Hartz does a disservice to his readers by not defining the liberal tradition, but he basically means that American politics has always followed the basi ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Ben added it
A 'consensus' historian deeply concerned by American consensus. Suggests that because America did not experience feudalism, it knows only liberalism, yet is unconscious of its Liberal tradition. For Hartz, "the basic ethical problem of a liberal society" is "not the danger of the majority, which has been its conscious fear, but the danger of unanimity." (11). Due to our lack of real liberal or conservative traditions (there is no true conservatism, as American 'conservatism' seeks to 'conserve' ...more
Apr 16, 2016 Nelson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a book for specialists. Hartz writes for other faculty in the common room or gentlemen in the club (the utter absence of women from the text is just one striking thing about it). Here's a sample of the prose: "Jackson was not another edition of Flocon, Jefferson another version of Ledru-Rollin." Grammatically, such a sentence is fairly clear; in terms of content, it is opaque to anyone who doesn't have a fairly thorough understanding of the political careers of a (now) obscure republi ...more
Johnny Nguyen
Aug 12, 2015 Johnny Nguyen rated it it was amazing
A comparative look at "Americanism" that shows that Americanism is difficult to compare with. Hartz writes a beautiful in-depth analysis on a nation that was - in the words of Tocqueville - born equal.
Dec 16, 2015 nicki rated it it was amazing
Fascinating one of the best modern american philosophers who is vastly undervalued in my opinion.
Jul 14, 2008 Tara rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008, books-i-own
Not what it sounds like. Kind of a hard read, as it references a ton of other sources casually and without background info, making it difficult to follow. But a VERY interesting political perspective that redefines (or rather, accurately defines) what the liberal tradition is. Hint: it has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans.
Sean Chick
Aug 12, 2011 Sean Chick rated it it was amazing
This book was rather eye-opening. Hartz may not be popular now, but he has not been wholly disproven either. Offers an excellent counter to the republican craze of recent historians.
Jan 16, 2009 Megan rated it it was ok
A dry read, but one with significant points as to the contradictory nature of America's creation; one without true revolution or its consequences.
Paul Wilner
Dec 15, 2007 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing
Smart guy, good writer, offbeat thesis.
Aug 25, 2008 David rated it it was amazing
a masterpiece...
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American political scientist and influential liberal proponent of the idea of American exceptionalism.
Hartz is best known for his classic book The Liberal Tradition in America (1955) which presented a view of America's past that sought to explain its conspicuous absence of ideologies. Hartz argued that American political development occurs within the context of an enduring, underlying Lockean libe
More about Louis Hartz...

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