Liberty for Individuality

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2004-11-10
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Morgan, Claire
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Elkin, Stephen L
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ABSTRACT Title of Dissertation: LIBERTY FOR INDIVIDUALITY Claire Louise Morgan, Ph.D., 2004 Dissertation Directed By: Professor Stephen L. Elkin, Government & Politics Over the last couple of decades libertarianism has gained a lot of attention and garnered much public support. The movement stands at a critical juncture with a great opportunity before it. It has the option of continuing as it isas a marginal critique of other mainstream political ideas and institutions, or it can present an alternative, viable individual ideal, together with a positive political and social vision (a new constitutional order or a "good society.") Assuming such a transformation is appealing to its members, how might a new vision look? This thesis offers one possible vision, and it does so by criticizes existing libertarian visions for their narrow focus on economics and law. David Boaz and Charles Murray have done much to broaden libertarian ideas, but they still fall short of the potential that exists at the heart of libertarianism. Instead, this thesis proposes a richer ideal, one of romantic libertarianismor individuality--that includes a significant role for culture and self-cultivation. Drawing on the work of Humboldt, J.S. Mill, and the Emersonians, it argues for the self-cultivation of the individual in his most individualuniqueform. The ideal for the libertarian self is supported by a regime theory, sketching out a possible libertarian society that might help to foster such an ideal. This includes a political structure, a legal structure, and a vibrant civil society. For any proposal to be genuinely attractive to libertarians it must be practically possible. The conclusion considers the organization of the current libertarian movement and speculates on reasons why these kinds of ideas have been neglected thus far. Finally, it questions whether such ideas are likely to be adopted in future, given current institutional arrangements and political strategies.
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