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Liberal individualism, or “classical liberalism” as it is often called, refers to a political philosophy in which liberty plays the central role. This book demonstrates a conceptual unity within the manifestations of classical liberalism by tracing the history of several interrelated and reinforcing themes. Concepts such as order, justice, rights, and freedom have imparted unity to this diverse political ideology by integrating context and meaning. However, they have also sparked conflict, as classical liberals split on a number of issues, such as legitimate exceptions to the “presumption of liberty,” the meaning of “the public good,” natural rights versus utilitarianism, the role of the state in education, and the rights of resistance and revolution. This book explores these conflicts and their implications for contemporary liberal and libertarian thought.Read more
- Delves into a set of ideas that have received scant attention in the history of political thought
- Examines controversies generated by the rights of resistance and revolution, as articulated and defended by many seventeenth-century liberals
- Discusses the debate about the role of education in a free society and what role government may or should play in providing it
Reviews & endorsements
"George Smith's lectures on classical liberalism had a profound effect on my thinking. Now, at long last, others may profit from his prodigious learning in this absolutely 'must read' book for anyone interested in modern libertarianism and its historical roots. Clear, accessible, balanced, and powerfully reasoned."
--Randy E. Barnett, author of The Structure of Liberty: Justice and the Rule of LawSee more reviews
"This is a lucid, concise, but at the same time a deep overview of the origins and structure of classical liberal thought. With a fluid and engaging style, Smith corrects many of our modern misconceptions about how early liberals understood themselves and the terms on which they debated. Anyone interested in liberal thought, whether in its 'classical', modern 'high liberal', or libertarian forms, will find this a valuable resource. Even critics of classical liberalism will find, thanks to Smith, that classical liberal thought contains a great deal of forgotten wisdom."
--Jason Brennan, author of Libertarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know
“George H. Smith is an independent scholar who for many decades has lectured and written about the history of classical liberal and libertarian ideas. The System of Liberty is his first extended take on this history to be published by a high-level academic press—a tribute both to Smith’s dogged scholarship and to the rise in the respectability of the libertarian tradition he explains and espouses…the information and analysis are always interesting.” -Brian Doherty, Reason Magazine
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- Date Published: April 2013
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9780521182096
- length: 231 pages
- dimensions: 228 x 152 x 12 mm
- weight: 0.32kg
- availability: Available
Table of Contents
1. Liberalism, old and new
2. Liberalism and the public good
3. Liberal ideology and political philosophy
4. Sovereign state, sovereign self
5. The anarchy game
6. The radical edge of liberalism
7. The idea of freedom
8. Conflicts in classical liberalism
10. Methodological individualism.
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