By Richard J. Ellis
This paintings demanding situations the thesis first formulated via de Tocqueville and later systematically built through Louis Hartz, that American political tradition is characterised via a consensus on liberal capitalist values. Ranging over 300 years of background and drawing upon the seminal paintings anthropologist Mary Douglas, Richard Ellis demonstrates that American background is better understood as a competition among 5 rival political cultures: egalitarian neighborhood, aggressive individualism, hierarchical collectivism, atomized fatalism, and self sustaining hermitude.
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68 Radicals hoped not only to destroy the Southern slaveholding aristocracy but also to remake the entire nation’s institutions in a more equalitarian direction. Thaddeus Stevens expressed the Radical hope that the war against slavery would provide the occasion for "the intelligent, pure and just men of this Republic [to remodel] all our institutions" in such a way as to free them from "every vestige of human oppression, of inequality of rights, of the recognized degradation of the poor, and the superior caste of the rich....
I begin with Tom Paine. But Paine also insisted that since "it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property,... every proprietor... of cultivated lands owes to the community a ground-rent... "23 For Paine, "all accumulation... Because personal property was "the effect of society," Paine reasoned, each person "owes... 26 In the case of personal property, the community has a right to make claims upon individual wealth because it is society that makes possible the accumulation of virtually all personal property.
It may be true, as Richard Hofstadter argues, that in America "the range of vision embraced by the primary contestants in the major parties has always been bounded by the horizons of property," 6 but what kind of cultural constraint is entailed by a commitment to the private ownership of property? If, on the other hand, radical egalitarianism is conceived of as a commitment to equal conditions, and if egalitarian social relations are compatible with private property, then the significance of a nation being "bounded by the horizons of property" recedes.