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The Two Faces of American Freedom

The Two Faces of American Freedom

Aziz Rana

ISBN 9780674058965

Publication date: 01/15/2011

The Two Faces of American Freedom boldly reinterprets the American political tradition from the colonial period to modern times, placing issues of race relations, immigration, and presidentialism in the context of shifting notions of empire and citizenship. Today, while the U.S. enjoys tremendous military and economic power, citizens are increasingly insulated from everyday decision-making. This was not always the case. America, Aziz Rana argues, began as a settler society grounded in an ideal of freedom as the exercise of continuous self-rule—one that joined direct political participation with economic independence. However, this vision of freedom was politically bound to the subordination of marginalized groups, especially slaves, Native Americans, and women. These practices of liberty and exclusion were not separate currents, but rather two sides of the same coin.
However, at crucial moments, social movements sought to imagine freedom without either subordination or empire. By the mid-twentieth century, these efforts failed, resulting in the rise of hierarchical state and corporate institutions. This new framework presented national and economic security as society’s guiding commitments and nurtured a continual extension of America’s global reach. Rana envisions a democratic society that revives settler ideals, but combines them with meaningful inclusion for those currently at the margins of American life.

Praise

  • This provocative book will interest all American historians… A brief review cannot do justice to the intricacy and subtlety of Rana’s argument. He deploys evidence from a dazzling range of sources, particularly but not exclusively from imaginative readings of pivotal court cases… The Two Faces of American Freedom…establishes Rana as a serious student of American democracy, and all readers of the Journal of American History should wrestle with his brilliant and passionate critique of ‘settler empire.’

    —James T. Kloppenberg, Journal of American History

Author

  • Aziz Rana is Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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