By Richard J. Ellis
This paintings demanding situations the thesis first formulated by means of de Tocqueville and later systematically constructed via Louis Hartz, that American political tradition is characterised by way of a consensus on liberal capitalist values. Ranging over 300 years of background and drawing upon the seminal paintings anthropologist Mary Douglas, Richard Ellis demonstrates that American heritage is better understood as a competition among 5 rival political cultures: egalitarian group, aggressive individualism, hierarchical collectivism, atomized fatalism, and independent hermitude.
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Extra resources for American Political Cultures
16 To argue that individual property predates government is to arm individualists with a potent instrument with which to resist the communitarian impulses inherent in the egalitarian vision. I begin with Tom Paine. But Paine also insisted that since "it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property,... every proprietor... of cultivated lands owes to the community a ground-rent... "23 For Paine, "all accumulation... Because personal property was "the effect of society," Paine reasoned, each person "owes...
Parasitic on the norms of liberal theory... "4 Equally important, I contend, is that throughout this nation’s history Americans have interpreted Lockean precepts to justify egalitarian as well as individualistic patterns of social relations. This chapter argues that two distinct belief systems—the first egalitarian and communitarian, the second individualistic and competitive—exist within what is commonly termed "liberalism"5 and that proponents of both belief systems appeal to Lockean precepts but interpret these precepts to support fundamentally different political cultures.
Their attempts to institutionalize alternative patterns of social relations in schools, settlement houses, and community centers attest to that. So, too, do their efforts (sometimes successful, sometimes not) to assert public control over the economy. At the local level, this meant pushing for municipal ownership and operation of essential services like garbage collection and lighting. The attempt to assert a public interest separate from and superior to private interests also manifested itself in citywide planning, zoning and building codes, regulation of noise, smoke and waste disposal, and standards for the treatment of workers and consumers.
American Political Cultures by Richard J. Ellis