Phillip Abbott is too modest. His essay seeks to defend, against its many critics, Louis Hartz's The Liberal Tradition in America, which was published half a century ago. Abbott bases his defense mainly on his discovery that certain concepts of Hartz's—“the liberal enlightenment,” “the American democrat”—remain valid and helpful in explaining the politics of the 1960s and after. Yet the merits of Abbott's interpretation of that phase in our political history rise or fall on his own thinking, not Hartz's—his use of Hartz's book, and not Hartz's book itself. If Hartz's work gets him where he wants to go better than Judith Shklar's or Rogers Smith's does, that's fine. Gratitude is a worthy sentiment, too often forgotten in our narcissistic academic culture. But by now, Hartz is mainly a figure of historical interest. I'm less interested in whether Louis Hartz was right than in whether Phillip Abbott is right—not about Louis Hartz but about the events of 1960s and their legacies.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations