By Richard J. Ellis
This paintings demanding situations the thesis first formulated by means of de Tocqueville and later systematically built by means of Louis Hartz, that American political tradition is characterised via a consensus on liberal capitalist values. Ranging over 300 years of background and drawing upon the seminal paintings anthropologist Mary Douglas, Richard Ellis demonstrates that American historical past is better understood as a competition among 5 rival political cultures: egalitarian neighborhood, aggressive individualism, hierarchical collectivism, atomized fatalism, and self reliant hermitude.
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It poses the puzzle but does not explain or resolve it. How then is one to resolve the paradox of crusading capitalists? Huntington, for instance, identifies the Puritan Revolution as "the original source... What stops such traditions from being dislodged or pried loose from the collective memory? 165 Placing ideas in a social context invites us to probe the process by which ideas are continually negotiated and renegotiated by real human beings. " "Where a man is expected to build his own career by transacting with all and sundry as widely as possible,...
9 The precise details of these controversies need not concern us here. 10 For if contemporary scholars disagree over what Locke intended, might not we expect to discover that American citizens, too, have differed in their constructions of Locke? 11 Rather than posit a Lockeanism that controls and confines American political discourse, I accent the ways in which adherents of rival political cultures have used Lockean language and principles to bolster their preferred patterns of social relations.
I begin with Tom Paine. But Paine also insisted that since "it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property,... every proprietor... of cultivated lands owes to the community a ground-rent... "23 For Paine, "all accumulation... Because personal property was "the effect of society," Paine reasoned, each person "owes... 26 In the case of personal property, the community has a right to make claims upon individual wealth because it is society that makes possible the accumulation of virtually all personal property.