Liberalism against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times (Hardcover)

Liberalism against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times By Samuel Moyn Cover Image
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The Cold War roots of liberalism’s present crisis 
“[A] daring new book.”—Becca Rothfeld, Washington Post
By the middle of the twentieth century, many liberals looked glumly at the world modernity had brought about, with its devastating wars, rising totalitarianism, and permanent nuclear terror. They concluded that, far from offering a solution to these problems, the ideals of the Enlightenment, including emancipation and equality, had instead created them. The historian of political thought Samuel Moyn argues that the liberal intellectuals of the Cold War era—among them Isaiah Berlin, Gertrude Himmelfarb, Karl Popper, Judith Shklar, and Lionel Trilling—transformed liberalism but left a disastrous legacy for our time.
In his iconoclastic style, Moyn outlines how Cold War liberals redefined the ideals of their movement and renounced the moral core of the Enlightenment for a more dangerous philosophy: preserving individual liberty at all costs. In denouncing this stance, as well as the recent nostalgia for Cold War liberalism as a means to counter illiberal values, Moyn presents a timely call for a new emancipatory and egalitarian liberal philosophy—a path to undoing the damage of the Cold War and to ensuring the survival of liberalism.

About the Author

Samuel Moyn is Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and History at Yale University and author of many books on the history of ideas and politics in the twentieth century. He lives in New Haven, CT.

Praise For…

“[A] daring new book.”—Becca Rothfeld, Washington Post

“A fascinating and combative intellectual history of what Moyn calls ‘cold war liberalism.’”—Gideon Rachman, Financial Times

Listed in New Statesman’s Best Books of the Academic Presses, 2023

“[A] provocative analysis of the early Cold War’s leading liberal intellectuals. . . . Moyn’s critique is hard-hitting.”—John Nilsson-Wright, Global Asia

“Moyn is a consistently interesting, challenging thinker bringing together intellectual history of the recent past and reflections on real-world politics. His new book is no exception.”—Paul Kelly, Society

 “Liberalism Against Itself possesses the . . . zest that can fizz only when a gifted polemicist turns his pen against his own side.”—A. R. Hoffman, New York Sun

“Elegant and provocative.”—Mathis Bitton, City Journal

“Original. . . . Acute and judicious.”—George Scialabba, Democracy Journal

“Skeptical of received wisdom and over-burnished reputations, Liberalism against Itself is a continuously bracing and necessary exercise in intellectual iconoclasm. It not only rescues a distinguished Western tradition from its skittish cold-war exponents and bellicose neo-conservative exegetes; it also alerts us to the many political and intellectual possibilities still open to us.”—Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger: A History of the Present

“In this compelling critique of Cold War liberalism, Samuel Moyn shows how, in the second half of the 20th century, liberalism lost its nerve, and its idealism. Today, with liberalism under siege, Moyn bids liberals to emerge from their blinkered, defensive crouch to reclaim a bold, progressive project of human agency and moral improvement. This is intellectual history at its best—by reminding us of wrong turns, it points us to new possibilities.”—Michael J. Sandel, author of Democracy’s Discontent: A New Edition for Our Perilous Times

“A striking, poignant account of how liberalism lost its way. Through a set of fascinating intellectual portraits, Samuel Moyn prompts us to confront liberalism’s Cold War capitulation to a reactionary pessimism, and invites us to imagine a liberalism oriented toward emancipation. Liberalism against Itself is vital reading for all those concerned with liberalism’s failures and possibilities.”—Amia Srinivasan, author of The Right to Sex

“Throughout my life, liberalism has been a politics of timidity and anxiety rather than freedom and equality. In his sterling reconstruction of recent history, Samuel Moyn shows that it was the Cold War that made liberalism what it is today. If there is to be a liberalism of tomorrow, liberals must leave the Cold War behind. If they do, Moyn claims in a brilliant provocation, there is an older idea of liberal perfection and progress to be recovered and a new world of freedom and equality to be won.”—Corey Robin, author of The Enigma of Clarence Thomas

Product Details
ISBN: 9780300266214
ISBN-10: 0300266219
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: August 29th, 2023
Pages: 240
Language: English