Will Morrisey

Will Morrisey is professor emeritus of politics at Hillsdale College. His most recent book is Churchill and De Gaulle: The Geopolitics of Liberty.

Liberalism’s Ungrounded Present

democratic religion

First and foremost, modern liberalism aimed at ending the moral, political, and intellectual conditions underlying the savage religious wars which wracked 16th and 17th century Europe. The concurrence of the Protestant challenge to the Roman Catholic Church with the founding of centralized states capable of raising and funding large armies made these wars both uncompromising and devastating. Although the earliest liberals—Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes—advocated religious establishments strongly supported by the new states as a means of imposing civil peace on warring factions, liberalism took a new turn with John Locke, who argued for republican politics and religious toleration. In the…

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Theory Comes Down to Earth

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Political Political Theory is no misprint. Jeremy Waldron’s stuttering title well expresses his intention. In the last generation, observes Waldron, “political theory” has become synonymous with considering the moral foundations of political life; the writings of John Rawls and Robert Nozick have framed much of the discussion. With the phrase “political political theory,” he signals the need to direct some philosophic attention to the actual operations of political life—particularly the forms, structures, and institutions by which we rule ourselves or are ruled by others. Philosophers used to think institutions too important to be left to the political scientists, and they should…

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Formed for a Statesman

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George Washington served as the model citizen of the republic founded upon the defense of natural rights. One might add that Benjamin Franklin served as the model citizen-intellectual, which isn’t quite the same thing. John and Abigail Adams (themselves no mean models) educated their son, John Quincy, to become the worthy successor of the Founding generation of the new regime. What does a man formed to defend natural rights look like? In John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit, the New Yorker writer James Traub gives us a carefully drawn portrait of a man “who did not aim to please, and . . . largely succeeded”—both…

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From Division to Resistance

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To this day, every major political grouping in France has had its own account of the opposition the country mounted against the Germans in World War II, leaving it to historians to try to sort things out. Robert Gildea has produced a well-researched and balanced book on the subject, Fighters in the Shadows: A New History of the French Resistance.

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Retro Commie Chic Tailored to This Year’s Campaign

Franklin D. Roosevelt delivers campaign speech, Topeka, Kansas (1932).

What made Franklin Roosevelt and the Greatest Generation great? Others may tell you it was defeating Nazism in a worldwide war. But Harvey J. Kaye, Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin, maintains that its heart and soul was none other than the Popular Front.

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Making Americans

The Early Puritans of New England Going to Church, George Henry Boughton (1867).

English settlers in America might have intended to transmit the traditions of the mother country to subsequent generations. This didn’t exactly happen—partly because the settlers disagreed amongst themselves about which of those traditions deserved preservation, and partly because the experience of life in North America challenged many of the traditions they did want to preserve. The disagreement and the adaptation together led, eventually, to a political revolution.

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The Democratic Socialist’s Usable Past

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American freedom has two faces, Aziz Rana maintains: political liberty or self-rule for citizens; subordination (at times going so far as extermination or enslavement) for non-citizens. He wants to show that these faces appear on opposite sides of the same coin, and that the coin needs recasting if we want our freedom universalized. Although Rana, associate professor of law at the Cornell University Law School, has earned his degrees in political science and law, here he writes as a historian. The Two Faces of American Freedom demonstrates once again that what used to be called “the New Left,” which gathered academic…

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A Fanatic’s Federalism

Kotkin bio of Stalin

It wouldn’t be fair to have called Bolshevism the death of irony. But it did insist on its exile. In the fall of 1922, V.I. Lenin deported intellectuals—putting them on two vessels jocularly called the Philosophers’ Steamers—for exhibiting such suspicious traits as “knows a foreign language” and “uses irony.” Those with opinions at actual variance with the new regime were interned in labor camps on an island near the White Sea. The newly formed State Political Administration (GPU) saw to it that no creeping Socratism would shadow the prospect of radiant tomorrows opened by History’s proletarian vanguard. As distinct from philosophy,…

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FDR as Tocquevillian?


As the ambit of modern life expands, like a gas, serious political ambition dilutes. We range more widely, but in a scattered way—a molecule of attention here, another over there. The time and care needed for real (as distinguished from Facebook) friendship and citizenship evanesce as we learn to think and feel in short bursts. Because it is worldwide, the Web is flimsy, thin-spun. Building character takes time but any twit can tweet. Citizenship requires patriotism, love of one’s own, but one loves nothing so ephemeral as virtual reality. Statesmanship takes sustained thinking, but the distracted mind sustains only nervousness. This is…

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