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Still Louis Hartz after All These Years: A Defense of the Liberal Society Thesis

Philip Abbott
Perspectives on Politics
Vol. 3, No. 1 (Mar., 2005), pp. 93-109
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3688113
Page Count: 17
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Still Louis Hartz after All These Years: A Defense of the Liberal Society Thesis
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Abstract

Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America was the dominant interpretative text in American political thought for a generation. In the late 1960s the Hartzian hegemony came under severe attack, and by the 1990s his interpretive framework had been declared obsolete. Critiques allege two basic, related flaws: (1) Hartz's interpretation ignored the diversity in American political thought, particularly, though not exclusively, on questions of race, and (2) his analysis exaggerated the extent of the consensus in American political culture. These critiques are based almost exclusively on Hartz's analysis of selected periods of early American political development. I argue that Hartz's basic concepts are powerful analytical tools that continue to provide the most compelling analysis of recent American political development. I test the Hartz thesis by constructing a plausible interpretation of the 1960s based on the concepts employed in The Liberal Tradition.

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