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A Tolerable Anarchy

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3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  58 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
In A Tolerable Anarchy, Jedediah Purdy traces the history of the American understanding of freedom, an ideal that has inspired the country’s best—and worst—moments, from independence and emancipation to war and economic uncertainty. Working from portraits of famous American lives, like Frederick Douglas and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Purdy asks crucial questions about our relati ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published March 3rd 2009 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2009)
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Bob Reutenauer
Purdy essays in Atlantic, Dissent, maybe a few other places like this have been of interest to me over the years. He burst on the political/cultural criticism scene a decade or more ago as a genius homeschooled kid from Carolina hill country (or close by.) He took aim at the prevalence of a mainstream form of "irony" that suffused the culture he found when he made his way out of the woods with his handmade banjo into Duke/Yale legal studies. I didn't understand then or remember now what the argu ...more
Stef
I picked this plain, little book up because it had come up as an item to weed during the recent collection development overview being done at the Medfield Library. However, when I looked more closely at the book I was intrigued by the questions that the author was trying to ask. Being a relatively moral person, I thought I'd give this book a new lease on life and check it out rather than just withdraw it and keep it for myself, now I am very glad that I did.

Purdy starts by analyzing the ideals o
...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Jun 01, 2009 Bookmarks Magazine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: july-aug-2009

What all critics appreciated about A Tolerable Anarchy was the rich intellectual history Purdy has constructed; more than one reviewer compared the book to a college course with a very engaging professor. But they were less certain about whether Purdy had reliably proved his particular thesis. In the New York Times Book Review, Gary Hart, the former senator and presidential candidate, compared Purdy's book to Alan Wolfe's recent title The Future of Liberalism and found the former the equivalent

...more
Gina Scioscia
Jan 03, 2011 Gina Scioscia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really enjoyed this title! Ostensibly, its about the history of the American Revolution and creation of the constitution, yet it's more about the meaning and uniqueness of freedom as an ideal, which all too often we take for granted or cover with patriotic platitudes.
Purdy shows how that freedom is not ensconced in government documents, but is a constantly changing idea whose limits are expanding. He cites Frederick Douglass as an example of an individual who took the failures of American freed
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Daniel Cunningham
Deserving of a re-read. Purdy always manages to render, with much more clarity and breadth, many of my own thoughts. I will say this book left me a tiny bit confused at the end, as it became more prescriptive --in a very gentle way-- than descriptive. I guess I was just not expecting that, and it seemed a bit of a sudden turn.

That said, when all is said in done, he made a strong case for addressing issues of today with a wide open mind and great respect. As always with Purdy, a good read; better
...more
Emmett
Dec 15, 2010 Emmett rated it it was amazing
I've really like Purdy since I read For Common Things about five years ago. He's the type of writer that I wished wrote, blogged and talked more. He has a very clear way of looking at things.

This book didn't disappoint. It was harder to get through than I remember his other works (most likely because I had to put it down every few minutes because I have kids now).

Purdy does an excellent job connecting the different tangents he picks up through American history and brings them solidy up to the pr
...more
Kathryn
Jul 26, 2010 Kathryn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a book about how people of different eras interrupted the word freedom in their literature and lives. I was interested in these different historical interpretations and felt the book quite interesting until the final chapter. This chapter dealt with climate change and how we could approach the problem.
Hannah
Feb 03, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and erudite. The author makes syllogistic points concisely and eloquently. The digression into the climate change in the last chapter felt a bit out of place in comparison with the other topics in the book; the argument, however, was sound.
Jay
too many big words. i don't even know what "tolerable" means.
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