Download American Liberalism: An Interpretation for Our Time (H. by John McGowan PDF

By John McGowan

Americans dwell in a liberal democracy. but, even though democracy is greatly touted this present day, liberalism is scorned by means of either the best and the left. the U.S. stands poised among its liberal democratic culture and the intolerant possible choices of liberalism's critics. In a fascinating and informative dialogue, McGowan bargains a ringing endorsement of yank liberalism's simple rules, values, and commitments. He explains that the liberalism of the founders dispensed strength commonly so as to restrict the ability anyone entity may possibly workout over others. Their objective used to be to supply for all a good freedom that mixed the proper to self-determination being able to in achieving one's self-chosen ambitions. In tracing this historical past, McGowan bargains a transparent imaginative and prescient of liberalism's foundational values as America's most sensible warrantly this day of liberty and the peace during which to workout it.

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Sample text

If the law is self-created, grounded in human authority alone, then it stands on nothing but whim. What humans did yesterday they can undo with impunity today. The cynical response to this abyss is to declare that might rules all. Liberal law is a delusion, a mask. It is a laughably feeble effort to restrain power—and it cannot possibly do the job. Those who trust in the law to protect them will be crushed. Those strong and ruthless enough (think Machiavelli and Nietzsche) to recognize that power is all and to pursue it full bore will be the world’s masters.

Without the law (as embodied in the Constitution), the nation does not exist. That is why new citizens, new soldiers, and those newly elected to office swear to uphold the Constitution, which is the palpable and indispensable source of nationhood. But what about the people? Liberalism, in almost all concrete cases (England provides the most important historical exception), has been fundamentally democratic insofar as it locates sovereignty in the people. ) The Constitution has to be ratified by the people in order to be legitimate and to take effect.

Even while I, in this book, invoke the American founding, I do not believe that origins are determinative. That America was founded, to a large extent, on the “original sins” of slavery and the displacement/extermination of indigenous peoples does not doom us to perpetual racism or enduring injustice. Those origins are hardly irrelevant—and should be both acknowledged and rectified. I have been willing—even eager—to place the law in productive tension with the demos and morality. Can I find my way to a similar understanding of the law’s relation to the origins located in ethnicity, culture, nationalism, and a violent history often driven by those abstractions?

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