Aristocratic Liberalism

Aristocratic Liberalism : The Social and Political Thought of Jacob Burckhardt, John Stuart Mill and Alexis de Tocqueville

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Although the term 'liberalism' is widely used to describe a variety of social and political ideas, it has been an especially difficult concept for historians to define. Alan Kahan's work makes significant progress toward such a definition by linking three great nineteenth-century thinkers in a single intellectual and ideological tradition he calls 'Aristocratic Liberalism'. An important component of Kahan's contribution is his ability to cross national boundaries to find similarities in the thought of Burckhardt, Mill, and Tocqueville. None of these thinkers came from aristocratic backgrounds, but they shared a distaste for the masses and middle classes, a fear and contempt of mediocrity, a suspicion of the centralized state, opposition to the commercial spirit, and a deep pessimism about the possibility of implementing their goals in the near future. Kahan concludes by correcting prevalent misconceptions about nineteenth-century liberalism (for example, that it was the representative political movement of the ascendant middle class) and by providing a typology of liberalism that will undoubtedly spark scholarly more

Product details

  • Hardback | 236 pages
  • 160.5 x 236.2 x 22.4mm | 582.25g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0195070194
  • 9780195070194

Review quote

"Comparative studies of large movements of thought of the caliber of Kahan's book are all too rare."--American Historical Review "Kahan is very good when he notes how much the aristocratic liberals owed to such earlier thinkers as Aristotle and Montesquieu. But he is positively brilliant when he deals with the pessimistic strains in the thought of Burckhardt, Mill, and Tocqueville."--Choice "Aristocratic Liberalism makes an overwhelmingly convincing case for linking these three great nineteenth-century figures in a single intellectual and ideological tradition. This kind of group portrait is, in my view, among the most delicate achievements of the intellectual historian, and Kahan demonstrates a complete mastery of the necessary skills. He is an incisive analyst of his three thinkers (whose works he reads in the original), and his control over the scholarly literature is impressive."--Paul Robinson, Stanford University "Kahan's book is impressive. It represents intellectual history at its best, and there have been very few such efforts in recent years.--Victorian Studies "A nuanced treatment of an important topic, contributing to the reinvigoration of the study of liberalism. Illuminating but appropriately tentative in its conclusions, it indicates directions for future research."--James McJ Robertson, Cogswell Collegeshow more

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