THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM by Robert Paul Wolff

THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Five essays on liberty, loyalty, power, tolerance, and community. Instead of letting their continuities emerge, Professor Wolff presents a rather contrived, though philosophically interesting, central argument: that social criticism and conceptual clarity are vitiated by the superimposition of ""collectivist sociology"" on ""individualist liberal political philosophy."" This thesis is exhibited most clearly in the essay on liberty, with its critique of John Stuart Mill. The essay on loyalty makes a series of trivial distinctions which do not further the argument; it is much inferior to Wolff's work on political obligation, which has been omitted. The essay on power attempts to demonstrate the falsity of ""power-elite"" theories and chiefly proves the need to clarify the notion. Issues of power and pluralism are better-developed in the fourth essay, on tolerance, a brilliant piece previously published in A Critique of Pure Tolerance (1965). The best essay in the book is a suggestive exploration of community, which elaborates the concepts of interest and of private, interpersonal and social value. Wolff is one of the ablest American social philosophers, and this is a very good book.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1968
Publisher: Beacon