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Why is liberalism so easily dismissed by thinkers both to its left and its right? To radicals on the left calling for wholesale transformation and conservatives claiming a monopoly on pessimistic or “realistic” conceptions of humanity, liberalism’s assured progressivism can seem like thin gruel. By these accounts, liberalism is unable to register the complexities of lived experience or to speak to the need for meaningful forms of belief and affiliation. Amanda Anderson’s study makes the case for a renewed understanding of the liberal tradition, demonstrating that liberalism has a more complex and “thick” array of attitudinal stances and political objectives than the conventional contrasts admit. Throughout its history, she argues, liberalism has engaged sober and even stark views of historical development, political dynamics, and human and social psychology. Anderson draws on a wide range of political thinkers, from John Stuart Mill to Judith N. Shklar, but emphasizes the ways in which literature reflects the ambitions and difficulties facing liberalism. Her discussion encompasses canonical works of high realism (Dickens’sBleak House, Eliot’s Middlemarch, and Trollope’s The Way We Live Now), a representative constellation of political novels from England and the United States (Dickens’sHard Times, Gaskell’s North and South, Forster’s Howards End, Trilling’sThe Middle of the Journey), and two works of modernism (Ellison’s Invisible Man and Lessing’sThe Golden Notebook), which themselves dramatize the ideological conflicts of the twentieth century in striking ways. Anderson’s deft combination of intellectual history and literary analysis discloses a richer understanding of one of the most important political ideologies of the modern era.
Number of Pages: 192
Genre: Literary Criticism, Literary Collections, Philosophy
Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
Author: Amanda Anderson
Street Date: December 19, 2016
Item Number (DPCI): 248-22-2260
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