cover of book

The Two Faces of American Freedom
by Aziz Rana
Harvard University Press, 2010
eISBN: 978-0-674-05896-5 | Cloth: 978-0-674-04897-3
Library of Congress Classification E183.R27 2010
Dewey Decimal Classification 973

This is a sweeping new interpretation of the national experience, reconceiving key political events from the Revolution to the New Deal. Rana begins by emphasizing that the national founding was first and foremost an experiment in settler colonization. For American settlers, internal self-government involved a unique vision of freedom, which combined direct political participation with economic independence. However, this independence was based on ideas of extensive land ownership which helped to sustain both territorial conquest and the subordination of slaves and native peoples. At the close of the nineteenth century, emerging social movements struggled to liberate the potential of self-rule from these oppressive and exclusionary features. These efforts ultimately collapsed, in large part because white settlers failed to conceive of liberty as a truly universal aspiration. The consequence was the rise of new modes of political authority that presented national and economic security as society’s guiding commitments. Rana contends that the challenge for today’s reformers is to recover a robust notion of independence and participation from the settler experience while finally making it universal.

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