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The Poverty of Liberalism
Addressing himself not only to radical thinkers but to liberal thinkers as well, Robert Paul Wolff, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, provides here an examination of four concepts central to liberal political concerns: Liberty, Tolerance, Loyalty, and Power. With distinctive precision of thought, Wolff shows how deeply liberals are dedicated to what ...more
Published September 1st 1969 by Beacon Press (MA)
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I read the German translation (edition suhrkamp) of this many years ago and it made a huge impression on me. The book is organized into several chapter essays: Liberty, Loyalty, Power, Tolerance, Community. In "Liberty" Wolff takes John Stuart Mill to task for presenting liberty as a utilitarian, individualist value -- thereby avoiding collectivist utility. In "Power" Wolff examines how we often outsource our decision-making to private entities. In "Tolerance" and "Community" he looks at our ...more
A useful text both from a critical and historical standpoint. Wolff demonstrates tremendous foresight in this text as he essentially predicts the communitarian position whilst also maintaining a commitment to Marxist thought. The early portions of the book take aim at utilitarian versions of liberalism (specifically through the work of Mill) and their potential to work toward "conservative" ends - Wolff is particularly interested in disabusing liberalism of Mill's commitment to non-intervention. ...more
Robert Paul Wolff is an American political philosopher. An alumnus of Harvard University, he currently teaches at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. He was primarily known for his research on Immanuel Kant.