Critiquing assumptions on both the left and the right, noted historian of ideas and political theorist David Selbourne stresses the importance of shared community and civic duty.
How stable are free societies today? This book argues that they are under threat from "market free-choice" and "moral free-choice," two sides of the same coin which between them, the author warns, threaten to tear civil society apart. Market free-choice is the prevailing economic ideology that gives free reign to market forces, even when they ride roughshod over communities and whole nations. Moral free-choice, the other side of the coin, is the notion of individual rights without any sense of civic responsibility. The result of such ultra-individualism in economic and moral practice is the malaise we find ourselves in today: a lost sense of place, community, and belonging, as well as dismissiveness and unawareness of the lessons of the past.
In the wake of these destructive trends, this book reminds us that personal well-being is dependent in large part upon the maintenance of a coherent civic and moral order. A society consisting of isolated individuals focused solely on personal rights with no regard for the foundation of their freedoms will soon see that foundation crumble through neglect. By the same token, a society that routinely sacrifices equality of opportunity and economic fairness to the forces of the global marketplace creates dangerous tensions between the few haves and the many have-nots.
Reminding the reader of the aspirations and largely-forgotten writings of America's founding fathers, the book concludes by pointing to the principles of what the author calls the "true commonwealth" as an alternative to today's political, ethical, and social disorders.
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About the Author
David Selbourne is the author of The Principle of Duty and The Losing Battle with Islam, among other works. For twenty years, he was a tutor in the history of political thought at Ruskin College, Oxford, and thereafter a freelance journalist for the Sunday Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Independent, the Guardian, and other newspapers, during which time he covered the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
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Excerpted from "The Free Society in Crisis"
Copyright © 2019 David Selbourne.
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Table of Contents
Prefatory Note 7
Chapter 1 As Other Powers Advance 9
Chapter 2 Rich and Poor 27
Chapter 3 Socialism's Defeat 41
Chapter 4 Breaking the Bounds 59
Chapter 5 The Home Front 81
Chapter 6 In Limbo 103
Chapter 7 Reactions 119
Chapter 8 The Political Class 155
Chapter 9 Bad Faith 173
Chapter 10 The Demiurge of Capital 201
Chapter 11 Questions of Belief 209
Chapter 12 The True Commonwealth 237
Note on Sources 321
Select Bibliography 329