The Necessity of Choice: Nineteenth Century Political Thought

Overview

Louis Hartz is best known for his classic study, The Liberal Tradition in America. At Harvard University, his lecture course on nineteenth-century politics and ideologies was memorable. Through the editorial hand of Paul Roazen, we can now share the experience of Hartz’s considerable contributions to the theory of politics.

At the root of Hartz’s work is the belief that revolution is not produced by misery, but by pressure of a new system on an old one. This approach enables him...

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Overview

Louis Hartz is best known for his classic study, The Liberal Tradition in America. At Harvard University, his lecture course on nineteenth-century politics and ideologies was memorable. Through the editorial hand of Paul Roazen, we can now share the experience of Hartz’s considerable contributions to the theory of politics.

At the root of Hartz’s work is the belief that revolution is not produced by misery, but by pressure of a new system on an old one. This approach enables him to explain sharp differences in revolutionary traditions. Because America essentially was a liberal society from its beginning and had no need for revolutions, America also lacked reactionaries, and lacked a tradition of genuine conservatism characteristic of European thought.

In lectures embracing Rousseau, Burke, Comte, Hegel, Mill, and Marx among others, Hartz develops a keen sense of the delicate balance between the role of the state in both enhancing and limiting personal freedom. Hartz notably insisted on the autonomy of intellectual life and the necessity of individual choice as an essential ingredient of liberty.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The Necessity of Choice . . . consists of the lectures that constituted Hartz’s graduate course on the nineteenth century at Harvard. Hartz had a clear and generous vision of the potential for political thought, sufficient, I think, to justify the decision of one of his former students, Paul Roazen, to compile and prepare these lectures. . . . Hartz views the French Revolution’s appeal to an unlimited state as the price paid for bad political thinking. And he has no illusions about the incompatibility of this and other statist expressions of human solidarity with a free society.” —Alfonso J. Damico, American Political Science Review “In The Necessity of Choice, Paul Roazen compiles the Harvard lectures that intellectual historian Louis Hartz delivered ‘virtually unchanged, for a quarter of a century’ on recent European political thought . . . The thread of continuity in Hartz’s analysis is the question of the role of the state in a free society. He has absorbed the Enlightenment love of freedom, but rejects its penchant for finding freedom in an absolutist state that has smashed religious and class barriers to liberty. On the other hand, Hartz rejects Hegelian historicism and Comtean worship of society.” —Stephen R. Lefevre, Perspectives on Political Science “Louis Hartz was the last historian in the second half of the twentieth-century bold enough to attempt an interpretation of the whole of American history since the revolutionary founding. His brilliant liberal synthesis still holds up well despite the critiques of Marxists and classical republicans. Scholars are indepted to Paul Roazen’s edited collection of Hartz’s lectures, which demonstrates the ways in which an interpretation of American uniqueness derived from reflections on European political philosophy.” —John Patrick Diggins, University of California, Irvine “The conflict that Louis Hartz found absent in American political thought is everywhere in his European analysis. For historical dialectic becomes parricide in Hartz, as each theory is haunted by the return of the alternatives it has repressed. These lectures were breathtaking to attend, and will be a joy for those who, thanks to Paul Roazen, can now read them.” —Michael P. Rogin, University of California, Berkeley
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781412854870
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/30/2014
  • Pages: 226

Meet the Author

Louis Hartz (1919–1986) was professor of government at Harvard University until he retired in 1974. He was a prominent political scientist and proponent of American exceptionalism.

Paul Roazen was professor of social and political science at York University in Toronto. He was the author of Helene Deutsch, Brother Animal, and Encountering Freud, all available from Transaction. Benjamin R. Barber is a senior research scholar at The Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society of The Graduate Center, The City University of New York.

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