Category Archives: Liberalism

Liberalism: A Very Short Introduction (2015)

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by Michael Freeden
Oxford University Press
144 pages

“Liberalism is one of the most central and pervasive political theories and ideologies, yet it is subject to different interpretations as well as misappropriations. Its history carries a crucial heritage of civilized thinking, of political practice, and of philosophical-ethical creativity.

This Very Short Introduction unpacks the concept of liberalism and its various interpretations through three diverse approaches. Looking at its historical and theoretical development, analysing the liberal ideology, and understanding liberalism as a series of ethical and philosophical principles, this is a thorough exploration of the concept and practice of liberalism.”

 

The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (2011)

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From the publisher: "This seminal work by political philosopher C.B. Macpherson was first published by the Clarendon Press in 1962, and remains of key importance to the study of liberal-democratic theory half-a-century later. In it, Macpherson argues that the chief difficulty of the notion of individualism that underpins classical liberalism lies in what he calls its "possessive quality"–"its conception of the individual as essentially the proprietor of his own person or capacities, owing nothing to society for them." Under such a conception, the essence of humanity becomes freedom from dependence on the wills of others; society is little more than a system of economic relations; and political society becomes a means of safeguarding private property and the system of economic relations rooted in property.

As the New Statesman declared: "It is rare for a book to change the intellectual landscape. It is even more unusual for this to happen when the subject is one that has been thoroughly investigated by generations of historians. . . Until the appearance of Professor Macpherson's book, it seemed unlikely that anything radically new could be said about so well-worn a topic. The unexpected has happened, and the shock waves are still being absorbed."

A new introduction by Frank Cunningham puts the work in a twenty-first-century context."

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Carl Schmitt and Leo Strauss: The Hidden Dialogue (2006)

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Carl Schmitt is the most famous and controversial defender of political theology in our century. But in his best-known work, The Concept of the Political, issued in 1927, 1932, and 1933, political considerations led him to conceal the dependence of his entire political theory on his faith in divine revelation. In 1932 political philosopher Leo Strauss published a critical review of The Concept of the Political that earned him Schmitt's respect and initiated an extremely subtle interchange between Schmitt and Strauss regarding Schmitt's critique of liberalism. Although Schmitt never answered Strauss publicly, in the third edition of his book he changed key passages in response to Strauss's criticisms without ever acknowledging them. In the present book Heinrich Meier astutely follows the trail left by the interlocutors. The present volume includes a new translation of Strauss's classic essay and the first English version of three letters to Schmitt from Strauss.

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Points:

"Carl Schmitt envelops the center of his thought in darkness because the center of his thought is faith. The center is faith in God's having become man, in a 'historical event of infinite, unpossessable, unoccupiable uniqueness.'" – page 68.

"To him the truth of revelation is such a certain source of 'pure and whole knowledge' that only a subordinate, derivative significance can be ascribed to any efforts to attain by human means knowledge of the nature of man and valid statements about the character of the political." – page 69.