The Twilight of Liberty: The Legacy of the ACLU

Overview

Twilight of Liberty is a sequel to Donohue's highly regarded The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union, but with a marked change in emphasis. Instead of challenging the ACLU's nonpartisan reputation, as he did in the earlier volume, Donohue now seeks to demonstrate why and how recent ACLU policy undermines the process of liberty. He argues that the ACLU, by relentlessly warring with mediating institutions, and by pushing a radical individualism in its policies, is not ...

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Overview

Twilight of Liberty is a sequel to Donohue's highly regarded The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union, but with a marked change in emphasis. Instead of challenging the ACLU's nonpartisan reputation, as he did in the earlier volume, Donohue now seeks to demonstrate why and how recent ACLU policy undermines the process of liberty. He argues that the ACLU, by relentlessly warring with mediating institutions, and by pushing a radical individualism in its policies, is not making us more, but less free.

Two conceptions of liberty are discussed. The first considers the social context in which the struggle for freedom takes place. It maintains that freedom is best achieved through a delicate balancing of individual rights with the legitimate needs of the social order. The other conception of liberty is atomistic, exclusively concerned with the rights of the individual. According to Donohue, such a definition assures the triumph of the state over the mediating institutions of society, thus reducing prospects for freedom.

This is the first book to critically analyze contemporary ACLU policy and to challenge its reputation as the preeminent voice of freedom in the United States. It aims to move beyond the idea that freedom is best served by pushing individual rights to extremes. Twilight of Liberty will appeal to scholars in the fields of law, social policy, and culture. Students in civil liberties courses will also find this book a valuable resource.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following his book, The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union , which argued that the group was not, as professed, above politics, LaRoche College Pittsburgh sociologist Donohue offers a flawed but provocative critique of what he calls the ACLU's ``statism and libertinism.'' He acknowledges that the ACLU has honorably battled violations of individual rights, but he maintains that the group's fetishization of those rights degrades institutions that help build responsibility and community. Donohue raises worthwhile questions about ACLU positions against ``contact tracing'' for HIV, metal detectors in schools and public expressions of religion. He contends that the organization's own practices don't match its support for affirmative action, and finds inconsistency in ACLU views on sexual harassment and campus free speech. He blames the ACLU participation in the deinstitutionalization movement for increasing the numbers of mentally ill homeless people and suggests that the group's defense of teenagers' constitutional rights ignores the claim of inner-city residents that curfews can make their communities safer. Though Donohue argues from the right, many of his contentions echo those of communitarian centrists, and his critique is in many instances appropriate. Jan.
Booknews
This work is the sequel to the author's , but with a change in emphasis. Instead of challenging the ACLU's nonpartisan reputation as in the earlier work, Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, seeks to demonstrate how and why recent ACLU policy undermines the process of liberty. He compares a conception of liberty which maintains that freedom is best achieved when individual rights and the needs of the social order are balanced, with a conception of liberty which is concerned solely with the rights of the individual. The original edition was published in 1994. This revised edition contains a new afterword by the author. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

“Focusing primarily on the past decade, Donohue contends, inter alia, that the ACLU's obsession with individual rights serves to undermine the overall social order and ultimately has the effect of lessening individual freedoms.”
— R. A. Carp, Choice

“Provocative . . . he acknowledges that the ACLU has honorably battled violations of individual rights but he maintains that the group’s fetishization of those rights degrades institutions that help build responsibility and community. . . . His critique is in many instances appropriate.”
—Publisher’s Weekly

“Mr. Donohue makes a detailed and persuasive argument that, far from simply “protecting constitutional freedom the ACLU is driven by an ideology for which the accurate term is extremist. Twilight of Liberty is an important polemical and constructive contribution to understanding law, politics, and morality in contemporary America.”
—The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

“William Donohue thoroughly documents and perceptively analyzes both the socially destructive work of the American Civil Liberties Union and the threat to liberty presented by the extremist positions on individual “rights” ACLU propagates. This book is a much-needed antidote to pernicious trends in our national life.”
—Robert H. Bork, American Enterprise Institute

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560001157
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994

Meet the Author

William A. Donohue is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York City. He taught at both St. Lucy’s School in Spanish Harlem and La Roche College. He is the author of numerous works, including The Politics of the American Civil Liberties Union, The New Freedom, and Secular Sabotage.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
Pt. I Mediating Structures and Liberty
1 The Family 21
2 The Schools 63
3 The Churches 93
4 The Private Sector 129
Pt. II The Public Weal
5 Freedom of Expression 169
6 The Homeless 221
7 Crime and Civil Liberties 251
Conclusion: The Radical Cast of Liberty 303
Index 325
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