The Poverty of Liberalism [Book Review]

Review of Metaphysics 23 (3):570-570 (1970)

This is a careful analytical study of some of the central concepts of contemporary political thought. In separate chapters the author deals with the concepts of liberty, loyalty, power, and tolerance, exposing in the process some of the contradictions and confusions of contemporary American liberal and conservative thought. In the first chapter, which takes its point of departure from J. S. Mill's writings on liberty and political economy, Wolff shows that conservatives and liberals in the U.S. often share common principles but disagree over the relevant facts. Since he thinks liberals have usually been right about the facts they have come, in his opinion, to dominate political debates. But the principles themselves need questioning, according to Wolff, and he formulates his own alternative in a final chapter entitled "Community." His aim in this final chapter is to rehabilitate the notion of the general or public good as distinct from the sum of the private goods of individuals, without falling into the totalitarian mold of various theories of the general good during the past few centuries. His ideas are not fully worked out in this chapter but they are interesting and stimulating. The other chapters on loyalty, power, and tolerance exemplify the two virtues which the book as a whole possesses. On the one hand they contain a careful analysis of the concepts involved, and on the other hand they represent a successful attempt to relate the analysis to current political problems.--R. H. K.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph197023349
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