The Limits of Liberalism
Tradition, Individualism, and the Crisis of Freedom
Published by: University of Notre Dame Press
- ISBN: 9780268104290
- Published: November 2018
In The Limits of Liberalism, Mark T. Mitchell argues that a rejection of tradition is both philosophically incoherent and politically harmful. This false conception of tradition helps to facilitate both liberal cosmopolitanism and identity politics. The incoherencies are revealed through an investigation of the works of Michael Oakeshott, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Michael Polanyi.
Mitchell demonstrates that the rejection of tradition as an epistemic necessity has produced a false conception of the human person—the liberal self—which in turn has produced a false conception of freedom. This book identifies why most modern thinkers have denied the essential role of tradition and explains how tradition can be restored to its proper place.
Oakeshott, MacIntyre, and Polanyi all, in various ways, emphasize the necessity of tradition, and although these thinkers approach tradition in different ways, Mitchell finds useful elements within each to build an argument for a reconstructed view of tradition and, as a result, a reconstructed view of freedom. Mitchell argues that only by finding an alternative to the liberal self can we escape the incoherencies and pathologies inherent therein.
This book will appeal to undergraduates, graduate students, professional scholars, and educated laypersons in the history of ideas and late modern culture.
"This is a very good book and a welcome voice in a time when, it seems, both reason and tradition are being relegated to the sidelines. The general argument of the book is presented with a kind of clarity that is rare in political theory. The argument of the book is complicated, but Mitchell makes it seem easy. His prose is clear, his argument always easy to follow. Mitchell's expertise is abundantly evident." ~Richard Avramenko, University of Wisconsin-Madison
"Mark Mitchell traces the intellectual genealogy of the part of modernity that he classifies as 'liberal cosmopolitanism' and focuses on its rejection of tradition. The book's focus is to identify why modernity rejected tradition and how tradition can be restored to its proper place in human understanding. The book deals with a large historical and philosophical topic that will be discussed for generations." ~Michael Federici, Middle Tennessee State University
"'Liberalism,' long subject to critical analysis, has come under more serious scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2016 elections and the weakening of the so-called liberal world order. Mitchell’s book, unlike so many others, is not polemical. It focuses on the impoverished understandings of knowledge in the liberal age, and implores us to return to richer alternatives illuminated by Oakeshott, MacIntyre, and Polanyi. Having considered what they offer, Mitchell ends by offering us a way out of the fierce and untenable position between an implausible cosmopolitanism and a dangerous tribalism—namely, humane localism. This is not only a superb work of scholarship, it is living political theory for the problems we face today." ~Joshua Mitchell, Georgetown University
“As it stands,The Limits of Liberalism is a compelling and worthwhile contribution to the ongoing intellectual debate over the future of political life in the West—and it undoubtedly belongs on any philosophical conservative’s reading list.” ~Patheos
"Mitchell has written a deep and compelling account of the school of thought that defends tradition. It will long be a resource for conservatives and others who want to understand how tradition can represent an alternative to modern rationality that both recognizes objective truth and our personal rootedness, which paradoxically is what gives us the means to understand that truth." ~The American Conservative
“Don’t be fooled by the title: This book is a desperately needed defense of reason, science, and liberty against the competing irrationalisms of the Left and Right. Drawing on the rich arguments of neglected or marginalized thinkers like Michael Polanyi and Alasdair MacIntyre, Mitchell persuasively shows why care for tradition cannot be left to sentimentalists, but requires our highest philosophical, political, and human attention.” ~Nathan Schlueter, Hillsdale College
“The book deserves to be read not only for its interesting meditations on the thinkers mentioned above but also because, like Deneen’s [Why Liberalism Failed], it provocatively updates an important and perennial challenge to liberalism, thus providing a very liberal reason to read it!” ~Choice
“In The Limits of Liberalism, Mitchell laments how liberalism facilitates the abandonment of place and tradition, in which the autonomous individual senses no obligation to her homeland or even her family, but rather is a citizen of the world committed to personal consumption and identity politics. . . . [Mitchell has] offered [a] forceful critique of liberalism.” ~Law & Liberty