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By Richard J. Ellis

ISBN-10: 0195111389

ISBN-13: 9780195111385

This paintings demanding situations the thesis first formulated by means of de Tocqueville and later systematically built via Louis Hartz, that American political tradition is characterised via a consensus on liberal capitalist values. Ranging over 300 years of historical past and drawing upon the seminal paintings anthropologist Mary Douglas, Richard Ellis demonstrates that American historical past is better understood as a competition among 5 rival political cultures: egalitarian neighborhood, aggressive individualism, hierarchical collectivism, atomized fatalism, and self reliant hermitude.

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At the same time, however, Locke suggests that in the state of nature men can rightfully acquire only enough to meet the immediate necessities of life. " 13 Here is a Locke more attractive to those imbued with an egalitarian ethos. The introduction of money makes it possible for people to accumulate goods beyond immediate use without having them spoil. But if civil laws permit greater accumulation than natural law, they do not necessarily justify unlimited accumulation. "14 To those who rely on this Locke, redistribution does not seem out of the question.

Affirming private (as opposed to collective) ownership of property does not preclude an attack on the existing distribution of that property. Nor does accepting the principle of private property necessarily entail rejecting the collectivity’s power to regulate the individual’s ability to dispose of that property. It is true that in its most extreme manifestations, egalitarianism will incline toward holding property in common. But egalitarianism is viable even where property is not shared communally.

This communitarian critique of competitive individualism drew inspiration from both religious and secular sources. By this exacting yardstick, the selfish pursuit of material interests characteristic of the marketplace as well as politics was found terribly wanting. Appalled by the "horrible blunder and stupidity of our whole industrial system," Protestant ministers like Charles M. "121 It was with the message of the Social Gospel in mind that the editors of the progressive Independent suggested that "religion might...

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American Political Cultures by Richard J. Ellis


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