By Joel A. Johnson
Why hasn’t democracy been embraced all over the world because the most sensible kind of government?
Aesthetic critics of democracy comparable to Carlyle and Nietzsche have argued that sleek democracy, via elimination the hierarchical associations that when increased society’s personality, turns voters into bland, mediocre souls. Joel A. Johnson now deals a rebuttal to those critics, drawing impressive concept from American literary classics.
Addressing the query from a brand new standpoint, Johnson takes a clean examine the price of liberal democracy in those doubtful instances and tackles head-on the thorny query of cultural improvement. studying the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, Mark Twain, and William Dean Howells, he exhibits that via their fiction we will achieve a greater appreciation of the wealthy aspect of daily life, making the controversy proper to modern discussions of liberal democracy.
Johnson specializes in a subject that liberals have inadequately addressed: no matter if humans are likely to improve totally as contributors lower than liberal democracy while any such regime does little officially to inspire their improvement. He argues that, even though the liberal worry of state-guided tradition is easily based, it's going to now not hinder us from comparing liberalism’s impact on person flourishing. via extending the controversy over the worthiness of liberal democracy to incorporate democracy’s impact on person improvement, he contends that the democratic event is far fuller than the aristocratic one and therefore expands the schools of its citizens.
Critics of yank democracy corresponding to John Rawls have sought to rework it right into a social or egalitarian democracy within the eu type. Johnson exhibits that neither the controversy among Rawls and his communitarian critics nor the continued dialogue of the globalization of yankee values properly addresses the elemental critique of democratic tradition complex via the cultured critics. Johnson’s cogent research reaches out to these readers who're prepared for a extra finished assessment of liberal democracy, providing new perception into the connection among the country and the person whereas blazing new trails within the intersection of politics and literature.
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Additional resources for Beyond Practical Virtue: A Defense of Liberal Democracy Through Literature
For his part, Howells concerns himself with the impact of America’s transition to urban capitalism on the individual. Taken together, the three novelists present a relatively comprehensive portrait of democratic conditions and their effect on individual development. As such, they provide a valuable corrective to traditional liberal thought, and serve as solid allies against the aesthetic critics. One might wonder why I have excluded Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry James, and many other worthy American writers from my study.
On this point, Howard Mumford Jones observes, Unlike Howells, James is no egalitarian; and furthermore, his American travel books have an anthropological air as of a cultivated ex- 24 Beyond Practical Virtue plorer reporting on the naïve customs of rude, colonial tribes. It is true that in the confrontation of Europe and America James finds many Americans, however simple, morally superior to corrupt European families like the Bellegardes in The American. Against this truth one must set his passionate admiration for the British upper class with their country houses, their infinite leisure, their taste, and their courtesy.
Liberal theory has a similar weakness concerning citizens’ development as human beings. Content with leaving people to their own devices, as long as they obey the law and do not harm each other, liberal theorists pay little attention to whether their institutions aid or impede individual development in practice. They are unaccustomed to handling such questions, which involve a complexity at odds with the elegant simplicity of most of their formulas (for example, equal rights for all). 23 Democratic novelists, however, can be instrumental in rebutting the aesthetic critique.