Perfection, the State, and Victorian Liberalism

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9781403968357: Perfection, the State, and Victorian Liberalism

This book recovers and recommends the core conviction of Victorian liberal theory that human beings, with the help of the state, can achieve an objective moral perfection. The first half of the book considers the diverse modern biases that have blinded us to the merit of this core conviction and weaves together disparate new scholarship (primarily in political theory and Victorian Studies) to set the stage for a reconsideration of that conviction. The second half of the book is that reconsideration outlining the various policies the Victorian liberals (John Stuart Mill and Matthew Arnold, primarily, with a half dozen other nineteenth-century British and American authors) recommended the state employ in the perfection of human beings.

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About the Author:

DANIEL MALACHUK is an independent scholar.

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"Victorian thinkers still have a lot to teach us about richer, more philosophically ambitious versions of liberalism than those on offer within contemporary liberal theory. As Daniel Malachuk highlights extremely well in this penetrating study, unqualified celebrations of the state are virtually non-existent in recent theory, and Malachuk helps us see that we could certainly do worse than to look to 19th-century liberalism in order to heighten our appreciation of the state as the agent of good purposes." - Ronald Beiner, University of Toronto

"Would that more scholars wrote about political philosophy with Daniel Malachuk's ability to overcome artificial disciplinary boundaries and derive lessons for the present from the study of the past. And would that more liberals came to liberalism's defense with as deep an appreciation of the varieties of liberalism and with as subtle an understanding of the dependence of political liberty on the moral life."

- Peter Berkowitz, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, George Mason University School of Law

"A lucid and thought-provoking argument on behalf of a renewed appraisal of Victorian liberalism, framed by a compelling critique of the prevailing skepticism of modern liberal and academic culture. This study should attract the attention of both Victorianists and contemporary theorists."

- Amanda Anderson, Caroline Donovan Professor of English, Chair, Department of English, Johns Hopkins University

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