Thursday, November 20, 2008

Off-Topic---The Conservative Implementation of Liberal Ideals

Cycles of American Political Thought, Joseph F. Kobylka, The Teaching Company, Course 4820, 36 lectures on 18 compact disks.

Historian and social commentator Louis Hartz described the United States as being a democratic republic that conservatively implements liberal ideals. Seeing America as a philosophical experiment with historical and theoretical baggage, Kobylka sets the Puritan's communities of saints and Virginia's communities of capitalists in the context of geographic expansionism and personal individualism. Noting the colonies varied inheritances, especially England's Glorious Revolution of 1688, Kobylka recreates an era of political revolution whose main voices are Thomas Hutchinson, John Dickinson, Thomas Paine, and Thomas Jefferson.

Keeping an eye on the social life of Americans as described Crèvecoeur and John Adams, Professor Kobylka dwells on the construction and implementation of the Constitution and the many balances within as well as the many countervailing weights that are in the balances. The fears of the Anti-Federalists towards a self-interpreting federal government, the contradiction of Thomas Jefferson ideas of equality and slavery, the democratic impulses of Andrew Jacksonian and the iconoclastic individualism of Henry David Thoreau reveal a republic that is an alloy of freedoms and fears.

Before the Civil War freedmen and females clamored to be included in the American democratic experiment. The thoughts and actions Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are presented along with the organic socialism of Brownson. The proslavery thoughts that represent American feudalism in the political discourse of George Fitzhugh and the opposition to American feudalism in Helper's view of an impending crisis reveals how American struggled with constitutionalizing the slave masters and their states' rights approach to federalism.

Lincoln's reconstitution of America and the post-war struggle with the concept of equality before the law and in practice struggles with the Social Darwinism and economic laissez-faire in a constitutional area of many 5-4 split decisions of the Supreme court. Teddy Roosevelt's support and clash with Progressivism, the Supreme Court and laissez-faire capitalism reveals the fundamental tensions in the 19th and 20th centuries with which America still struggles with in the 21st century. The Women's Movement, the 19th Amendment, Eugene V. Debs, and working-class socialism provide both the means and ends of a culture on a collision course with the Great Depression, FDR, the New Deal, and a Supreme Court that resists change.

The racial revolution wrought by WWII and Harry Truman is set beside the new impulses of blacks who have debated the ideas Carver, DuBois, and Garvey and continue to face poverty and limited opportunities to establish a black middle class. The civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s are at times renewed during the Reagan revolution in the Bakke decision.

This course is taught by Dr. Joseph F. Kobylka, professor at Southern Methodist University. Kobylka's half hour lectures is a good fit for commuters who are looking to put into context the possibilites of political change that are upon the American democtratic republic. American political thought today is an alloy of laissez-faire capitalism, free markets, and economic welfare for individuals, families and corporate feudalism.

Link to Cycles of American Political Thought, The Teaching Company

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