Liberalism Undressed

Liberalism Undressed

by Jethro K. Lieberman
     
 


One of mankind's most enduring questions is the legitimate scope of state power: how far and in what ways may the government meddle with people's lives? Where lies the line that government ought not cross? For more than three centuries, the western world has answered these questions with with institutions and practices that collectively have come to be known… See more details below

Overview


One of mankind's most enduring questions is the legitimate scope of state power: how far and in what ways may the government meddle with people's lives? Where lies the line that government ought not cross? For more than three centuries, the western world has answered these questions with with institutions and practices that collectively have come to be known as liberal democracy. Though deeply rooted, liberalism has stirred critical attacks from both the left and the right and it has never wholly won the day. During the past 40 years, many of liberalism's most distinguished defenders have presented complex, controversial, abstruse, and even impenetrable theories to justify liberal institutions and practices, often relying on metaphysical constructs, imaginary beings, and fanciful events to fashion abstract liberal principles that rarely reach real-world problems.

In Liberalism Undressed, Jethro K. Lieberman returns to liberalism's roots to explain, in accessible and readable prose, why liberalism retains its power and appeal. He begins with the memorable thesis of John Stuart Mill, who drew from earlier liberal writers, that "the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." Building on Mill's well-known, but rarely analyzed, Harm Principle, Liberalism Undressed undertakes to show that this widely-accepted precept-"it's a free country; I should be able to do what I want as long as I don't hurt anybody"-can justify a government robust enough to deal with pressing modern problems of human harm and suffering while restrained enough to provide people freedom to live life on their own terms. A powerful reinterpretation of liberalism's foundations, it forces us to rethink our understanding of the meaning of harm and the proper role of government in our individual and communal lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Liberalism Undressed is Lieberman's masterwork, a brilliant, provactive and mature product of decades of thought about some of the most fundamental issues of our time or any time. ... His book belongs on the shelf next to the works of John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and Ronald Dworkin."--New York Law Journal

"In Liberalism Undressed, a book deeply immersed in the political and legal thought of the last several centuries, Jethro Lieberman revives to powerful effect JS Mill's largely ignored "harm principle." With great clarity, elegance, wit and a good deal of common sense, Lieberman demonstrates that we can find in Mill's principle a justification for liberal government. By addressing a wide range of public policy issues with the harm principle in hand, he derives a potent theory of state powers. Fearless in his rejection of the arguments of a multitude of contemporary pundits and theorists, Lieberman offers the reader a humane guide that should enable us to preserve the liberty of liberalism in a world of necessary interdependence and government involvement."--Arlene Saxonhouse, Caroline Robbins Collegiate Professor of Political Science, University of Michigan

"Jethro Lieberman has, for many years, been one of our most accomplished and thoughtful commentators on the law. He brings to legal, political, and cultural analysis the acumen of a philosopher, the common-sense wisdom of a practitioner, and the flair of a literary stylist. In an age when "liberal" has become an epithet, Lieberman brilliantly reformulates and recaptures the kind of liberalism that Edmund Burke articulated two centuries ago, and that even conservatives like me can cherish."--Stephen B. Presser, Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History, Northwestern University School of Law

"As one reads through Jethro Lieberman's Liberalism Undressed, it becomes increasingly clear that this is the work of an extraordinarily wise, insightful and well-educated person. It also helps that Lieberman is a splendid writer."--Yale Kamisar, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan Law School

"Liberalism Undressed is a thought-provoking exploration into the enduring relevance of the classical liberal political ideal in the modern world. The reader will come away with valuable insights into the proper role of government in a free society."--Senator Joseph I. Lieberman

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199919840
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
10/15/2012
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Jethro K. Lieberman is the author of The Litigious Society and many other books. He has had a varied career: as a practicing lawyer, both in private practice and as a Navy JAG officer; as a journalist, working as Legal Affairs Editor of Business Week; and as a Professor, both at New York Law School and, as adjunct professor of Political Science, at Columbia University.

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