Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik

Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik

Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik

Liberalism's Crooked Circle: Letters to Adam Michnik

Synopsis

In Ira Katznelson's view, Americans are squandering a tremendous ethical and political opportunity to redefine and reorient the liberal tradition. In an opening essay and two remarkable letters addressed to Adam Michnik, who is arguably East Europe's emblematic democratic intellectual, Katznelson seeks to recover this possibility. By examining issues that once occupied Michnik's fellow dissidents in the Warsaw group known as the Crooked Circle, Katznelson brings a fresh realism to old ideals and posits a liberalism that "stares hard" at cruelty, suffering, coercion, and tyrannical abuses of state power. Like the members of Michnik's club, he recognizes that the circumference of liberalism's circle never runs smooth and that tolerance requires extremely difficult judgments. Katznelson's first letter explores how the virtues of socialism, including its moral stand on social justice, can be related to liberalism while overcoming debilitating aspects of the socialist inheritance. The second asks whether liberalism can recognize, appreciate, and manage human difference. Situated in the lineage of efforts by Richard Hofstadter, C. Wright Mills, and Lionel Trilling to "thicken" liberalism, these letters also draw on personal experience in the radical politics of the 1960s and in the dissident culture of East and Central Europe in the years immediately preceding communism's demise.
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