The Idea of Fraternity in America
730 pages, 6.14 x 9.21
Paperback | 9780268205355 | June 2023
Hardcover | 9780268205348 | June 2023
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268205331 | June 2023
“A complex, intellectually jarring, and valuable book, one which reveals how early America became her true self as we now know her.” —Kirkus Reviews
The United States is currently experiencing a crisis of citizenship and democracy. For many of us, there is a sense of forlornness caused by losing sight of human connectedness and the bonds of community. Originally published in 1973, and long out of print, The Idea of Fraternity in America is a resonant call to reclaim and restore the communal bonds of democracy by one of the most important political theorists of the twentieth century, Wilson Carey McWilliams.
This sprawling and majestic book offers a comprehensive and original interpretation of the whole range of American historical and political thought, from seventeenth-century White Puritanism to twentieth-century Black American political thought. In one sense, it is a long and sustained reflection on the American political tradition, with side glances at other cultures and other traditions; in another sense, it is an impressive beginning to an original and comprehensive theory of politics, rooted in a new reading of a vast array of relevant sources. Speaking with a prescience unmatched by his contemporaries, McWilliams argues that in order to address the malaise of our modern democracy we must return to an ideal of our past: fraternity, a relation of affection founded on shared values and goals. This 50th anniversary edition, which offers a critique of the liberal tradition and a new social philosophy for the future, contains a new introduction from McWilliams’s daughter, Susan McWilliams Barndt. She writes, “At a time when many Americans are wondering how we got to where we are today . . . this book demonstrates that there is in fact a lot of precedent for what feels so unprecedented in contemporary American politics.”
Wilson Carey McWilliams (1933–2005) was a professor in the department of political science at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick. He was the author of numerous books, including The Democratic Soul: A Wilson Carey McWilliams Reader
Susan McWilliams Barndt is professor of politics at Pomona College. She has written and edited a number of books, including The American Road Trip and American Political Thought.
“A treasure of political and cultural reflection awaits the reader in the form of this splendid new edition of Wilson Carey McWilliams’s The Idea of Fraternity in America. This is political theory with a soul that speaks to reflective citizens as such.” —Daniel J. Mahoney, author of The Statesman as Thinker
"Carey McWilliams remains the great modern critic of American liberalism, while also recognizing its crucial virtues. As Susan McWilliams Barndt says in her insightful and moving introduction, 'fraternity is a critical part of the American inheritance, providing ballast and inspiration against the prevailing trajectory of things.'” —Marc Landy, author of American Government
"The reissue of Carey McWilliams’ The Idea of Fraternity in America is a welcome opportunity for a new generation of readers to discover McWilliams’ unique gifts. No one was better at understanding the uniquely difficult role that literary genius plays in a democratic regime—the 'second voice' in the conversation about the meaning and the possibility of American democracy." —Dennis Hale, author of The Jury in America