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A Tolerable Anarchy: Rebels, Reactionaries, and the Making of American Freedom (Vintage)by Jedediah Purdy
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of For Common Things: a provocative look at the meaning of American freedom.
Freedom is at the heart of the American identity, shaping both personal lives and political values. The ideal of authoring ones own life has inspired the countrys best and worst momentscourage and emancipation, but also fear, delusion, and pointless war.
This duality is Americas story, from slavery to the progressive reforms of the early twentieth century, from the New Deal to the social movements of the 1960s and todays battles over climate change. The arc has been toward expanding freedom as new generations press against inherited boundaries. But economic forces beyond our control undercut our ideas of self-mastery. Realizing our ideals of freedom today requires the political vision to reform the institutions we share.
Jedidiah Purdy works from the stories of individuals: Frederick Douglass urging Americans to extend freedom to slaves; Ralph Waldo Emerson arguing for self-fulfillment as an essential part of liberty; reformers and presidents struggling to redefine citizenship in a fast-changing world. He asks crucial questions: Does capitalism perfect or destroy freedom? Does freedom mean following tradition, Gods word, or ones own heart? Can a nation of individualists also be a community of citizens? A Tolerable Anarchy is a book of history that speaks plainly to our lives today, urging us to explore our understanding of our country and ourselves, and to make real our own ideals of freedom.
From the Hardcover edition.
In A Tolerable Anarchy, Jedediah Purdy traces the history of the American understanding of freedom, an ideal that has inspired the country’s best—and worst—moments, from independence and emancipation to war and economic uncertainty. Working from portraits of famous American lives, like Frederick Douglas and Ralph Waldo Emerson, Purdy asks crucial questions about our relationship to liberty: Does capitalism perfect or destroy freedom? Does freedom mean following tradition, God’s word, or one’s own heart? Can a nation of individuals also be a community of citizens? This is history that speaks plainly to our lives today, urging readers to explore our understanding of our country and ourselves, and a provocative look at one of America’s cherished principles.
About the Author
Jedediah Purdy teaches law at Duke University and has also taught at Yale and Harvard. Purdy is the author of For Common Things: Irony, Trust, and Commitment in America Today and Being America: Liberty, Commerce, and Violence in an American World, and has written for The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times, Democracy, and other publications.
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