The Southern Tradition: The Achievement and Limitations of an American Conservatismby Eugene D. Genovese
In recent years American conservatism has found a new voice, a new way of picking up the political pieces left in the wake of liberal policies. But what seems innovative, Eugene Genovese shows us, may in fact have very old roots. Tracing a certain strain of conservatism to its sources in a rich southern tradition, his book introduces a revealing perspective on the politics of our day. As much a work of political and moral philosophy as one of history, The Southern Tradition is based on the intellectual journey of one of the most influential historians of the late twentieth century.
To appreciate the tradition of southern conservatism, Genovese tells us, we must first understand the relation of southern thought to politics. Toward this end, he presents a historical overview that identifies the tenets, sensibilities, and attitudes of the southern-conservative world view. With these conditions in mind, he considers such political and constitutional issues as state rights, concurrent majority, and the nature and locus of political power in a constitutional republic. Of special interest are the southern-conservative critiques of equality and democracy, and of the Leviathan state in its liberal, socialist, and fascist forms. Genovese examines these critiques in light of the specific concept of property that has been central to southern social and political thought.
Not only does this book illuminate a political tradition grounded in the writings of John Randolph and John C. Calhoun, but it shows how this lineage has been augmented by powerful literary figures such as Allen Tate, Lewis Simpson, and Robert Penn Warren. Genovese here reconstitutes the historical canon, re-envisions the strengths and weaknesses of the conservative tradition, and broadens the spectrum of political debate for our time.
It would be difficult to imagine a more precise or lucid depiction of genteel Southern conservatism than that offered herein by Eugene D. Genovese… Penetrating and persuasive.
Eugene Genovese is a Marxist historian with conservative affiliations who has had a greater impact on current interpretations of the Southern past than any other scholar with the possible exception of C. Vann Woodward… Iconoclastic, defiant and thoroughly engaging, this Jeremiah finds little ground for optimism. He warns allies and foes alike of future perils and seeks, probably in vain, a usable conservative tradition…cleansed of the racism and economic materialism that once constituted much of its ideology… Last year's mid-term elections suggest, however, that Genovese is no longer in a minority, nor the South the pariah it once was: his exposition of the tensions between conservative social ideals and actual practice makes The Southern Tradition a study far richer in meaning than liberal critics are likely to recognize.
Brilliant…learned, deep, cogent, and provocative, guaranteed to churn the brain.
At once a bold tract for the time and a cogent summary interpretation of the complex relationship of the history of the American South to the history of the nation… [This book is] a rich distillation of the thinking of the South that is embodied in a series of remarkable studies [by the author].
Lewis P. Simpson
The notion of a Southern political tradition can be understood as conservative, complete, and consistent with its roots. Eugene Genovese's The Southern Tradition poignantly articulates these qualities…[and] pertinently reviews American conservatism's intellectual roots.
Eugene D. Genovese, one of America's most distinguished historians, has previously written extensively about different aspects of Southern history. Now, in this volume—succinct, erudite, and eloquent—he describes and (at any rate partially) praises the distinctive Southern tradition of conservatism, from its beginnings to the present time… Genovese's hints throughout this book as to the kind of Left he would like to see are appealing as well as intellectually stimulating.
Peter L. Berger
This is a compelling and provocative book. The work of a devout leftist who is also one of this country's leading historians, The Southern Tradition is a perceptive and sympathetic portrayal of one of the main currents in American conservative thought. It is also historical revisionism of a very high order… It is one measure of the power of this book that even a conservative reader comes away wondering if he might not be right.
A. J. Bacevich
In roughly 100 pages, Genovese presents a thoughtful, scholarly analysis of political philosophy, the role of government, and how the white South plays into this… A significant asset to any political theorist's collection.
L. L. Duke
[Genovese] brings to this study of the southern tradition a rare if not unique combination of points of view and standards of scholarship.
C. Vann Woodward
The Southern Tradition is a very important book. Genovese calls us to task by identifying meritorious principles of the southern tradition and their relevance to contemporary politics. All serious students of U.S. politics should read this book.
- Harvard University Press
- Publication date:
- William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization Series
- Product dimensions:
- 6.20(w) x 9.29(h) x 0.66(d)
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Meet the Author
Eugene Genovese was Distinguished Scholar-in-Residence at the Atlanta University Center Consortium. His books include the award-winning Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made.
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