Freedom and Control in Modern Society

By Morroe Berger; Theodore Abel | Go to book overview

8
INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY TODAY: CHALLENGE AND PROSPECT

THOMAS I. COOK

In the broadest sense, the search of the political philosopher in our day has been to provide an adequate theory for interpreting the direction of the open and experimental democratic society under conditions of industrialism, of sub-continental organization, and of world-wide interrelations of peoples. The United States, the first country to combine constitutional democracy, sub-continental organization, and highly developed industrial technology, provides a vast exhibition for the philosopher bent on such a task; and in the history of its institutions and ideas it reveals the problems and difficulties involved in such a combination. Europe, on the other hand, is the source of the generic ideals to be combined, the Greek concept of the cultured citizen and the Christian ideal of the ultimate moral person.

The American experience and attitude have begotten a pluralism in institutions and a pluralistic and individualistic outlook. They have also produced a pragmatic and instrumentalist philosophy whose secular protestantism makes closed monistic systems of thought irrelevant and renders statism abhorrent (but not impossible). Yet our way of life and thought tends to be inimical to societal unity and it tends, despite nobler aspiration and deeper insight, to undue stress on means and, consequently, to the unintended rejection of that ethical universalism without which libertarian diversity becomes destructive or is sacrificed at last to an imposed absolutism.

European philosophies, however, for all their concern with universalism, have themselves too frequently ended in absolutes, when they have not led to a negative skepticism through inability to create

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