The Trials of Liberalism

in Richard Hofstadter

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780226076409
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226076379 | DOI:
The Trials of Liberalism

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This chapter discusses Hofstadter's book ;The Idea of a Party System: The Rise of Legitimate Opposition in the United States, 1780–1840. Deeply concerned with the fate of comity in an era of political polarization, Hofstadter wrote this book. The work is both a blueprint of the birth of pluralism and a provocative rejoinder to those who dismissed liberalism as a spent force in American political life. It is, in some respects, an unusual Hofstadter book. It lacks the bold revisionism and social-psychological insights that distinguished its author's most controversial scholarship. Published by the University of California Press (the manuscript was tied to a lecture series at Berkeley), it reads much like the kind of monographic history that Hofstadter typically avoided. The Idea of a Party System's perceptive portraits of Madison, Monroe, and Van Buren collectively made the case that Americans benefited from living under a political arrangement that prized popular power. It failed to note, however, that parties also served as the primary instrument to choke unpopular positions.

Keywords: The Idea of a Party System; political polarization; liberalism; revisionism; scholarship; perceptive portraits

Chapter.  5759 words. 

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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