A Tolerable Anarchy: Rebels, Reactionaries, and the Making of American Freedom (2009) Jedediah Purdy

A Tolerable Anarchy: Rebels, Reactionaries, and the Making of American FreedomPurdy essays in Atlantic, Dissent, maybe a few other places like this have been of interest to me over the years. He burst on the political/cultural criticism scene a decade or more ago as a genius homeschooled kid from Carolina hill country (or close by.) He took aim at the prevalence of a mainstream form of “irony” that suffused the culture he found when he made his way out of the woods with his handmade banjo into Duke/Yale legal studies. I didn’t understand then or remember now what the argument about irony was about.. and in this book I don’t have a real grip on the “tolerable anarchy” of his title. His early discussion of Edmund Burke and Samuel Johnson on the American Revolution was fantastic. Likewise his treatment of Adam Smith is very strong at drawing the connection between the Smith popularized by Wealth of Nations and the less known Smith of the Scottish Enlightenment and his Theory of Moral Sentiments. This first third of the book is well worth the price of admission.

 

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