Saturday, February 16, 2013

Alan Ryan's "The Making of Modern Liberalism"

Having just finished reading On Politics (WW Norton/Liveright 2012), Alan Ryan's magisterial history of (predominantly Western) European political thought, I have started reading his equally magisterial, The Making of Modern Liberalism (Princeton 2012).

The book is worth buying, and reading, for the third chapter alone (although the first two chapters were also excellent, and I do not know what delights await in subsequent chapters), which concerns the problems of "Culture and Anxiety" that have plagued modern societies since Enlightenment thinkers and Humanists first began questioning the primacy of theology. The chapter is part autobiography, part meditation on egalitarianism and meritocracy as features of modern moral/political theory, part assessment of the role widening educational opportunity, and higher education in particular, has played in the development of liberal (with a small "l") culture.

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