Mitchell, “The Limits of Liberalism”

9780268104290Everywhere today, thinkers are evaluating the continued viability of the liberal project. Some argue that liberalism has run its course, the victim of its own success; others, that liberalism still has something great to offer, if we can salvage it; and others, that the crisis in liberalism is exaggerated and that liberalism is still the only political game in town. A new book from Notre Dame Press, The Limits of Liberalism: Tradition, Individualism, and the Crisis of Freedom, by government professor Mark T. Mitchell (Patrick Henry College), seems to fall in the first camp. Mitchell argues that liberalism’s rejection of tradition has created a false conception of the self, which has led to a false conception of liberty. He argues for a reconstruction of tradition as an antidote to liberalism’s failings. Looks very interesting, especially for those of us involved in the Tradition Project. Here’s the description from the Notre Dame website:

In The Limits of Liberalism, Mark T. Mitchell argues that a rejection of tradition is both philosophically incoherent and politically harmful. This false conception of tradition helps to facilitate both liberal cosmopolitanism and identity politics. The incoherencies are revealed through an investigation of the works of Michael Oakeshott, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Michael Polanyi.

Mitchell demonstrates that the rejection of tradition as an epistemic necessity has produced a false conception of the human person—the liberal self—which in turn has produced a false conception of freedom. This book identifies why most modern thinkers have denied the essential role of tradition and explains how tradition can be restored to its proper place.

Oakeshott, MacIntyre, and Polanyi all, in various ways, emphasize the necessity of tradition, and although these thinkers approach tradition in different ways, Mitchell finds useful elements within each to build an argument for a reconstructed view of tradition and, as a result, a reconstructed view of freedom. Mitchell argues that only by finding an alternative to the liberal self can we escape the incoherencies and pathologies inherent therein.

This book will appeal to undergraduates, graduate students, professional scholars, and educated laypersons in the history of ideas and late modern culture.

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