The Conservative Intellectual Tradition in America

Session 4: The Fragility of Ordered Liberty: Tocqueville and Conservative Conceptions of Liberty, Equality, and Community

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Guest Lecturer: Michael Barone, Esq.View a short interview regarding this theme

Themes: Tensions in American identity—individualism and civic-mindedness; “provincial loyalties” and the preservation of American vitality; the tyranny of the majority; civil Society, mediating institutions, and the State; the threat of social dislocation and fragmentation, the impulse to centralization.


Recorded: 2/8/2012

Required Reading:

Tocqueville, Alexis de. “Of Individualism in Democratic Countries,” How Americans Combat Individualism by the Principle of Self-Interest Rightly Understood,” “That the Americans Apply the Principle of Self-Interest Rightly Understood to Religious Matters,” “That the Opinions of Democratic Nations about Government Are Naturally Favorable to the Concentration of Power in America,” “That the Sentiments of Democratic Nations Accord with Their Opinions in Leading Them to Concentrate Political Power in America,” “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear,” Democracy in America, Vol. II, Sec. 2-4

Nisbet, Robert. “The Loss of Community,” “The Contexts of Individuality,” The Quest for Community

Wilfred McClay, “Communitarianism and the Federal Idea.”

Randolph, John. “King Numbers,” Proceedings of the Virginia Convention of 1829-30

Roberts, Carey. “Hamiltonianism: The Origins of the Modern State,” Back on the Road to Serfdom

Thoreau, Henry David. “Resistance to Civil Government,” in David Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: Volume I – 1630 to 1865

Recommended Reading:

Bancroft, George. “The Office of the People in Art, Government, and Religion,” in David Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: Volume I – 1630 to 1865

Brownson, Orestes. “Liberalism and Progress,” Orestes Brownson: Select Essays (p. 161-190)

Carey, Henry C. Selection, The Harmony of Interests, in David Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: Volume I – 1630 to 1865

Grimke, Sarah M. Selection, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Women, in David Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: Volume I – 1630 to 1865

Kirk, Russell. “The Prescience of Tocqueville,” The Essential Russell Kirk

Koritansky, John. “Democracy and Nobility: A Comment on Tocqueville’s Democracy in America,” Arguing Conservatism

Molnar, Thomas. “The Liberal Hegemony: The Rise of Civil Society,” Arguing Conservatism

Peabody, Elizabeth Palmer. “A Glimpse of Christ’s Idea of Society,” in David Hollinger and Charles Capper, The American Intellectual Tradition: Volume I – 1630 to 1865

Carey, George, and Frohnen, Bruce, eds. Community and Tradition. Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

Course Overview

Section One: Introduction
Section Two: The Foundations of American Conservatism
Section Three: The 20th Century and the Recovery of a Conservative Tradition
Section Four: Conservative Triumph, Consensus, and Crisis