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date: 21 September 2021

Abstract and Keywords

In 1955, Louis Hartz argued that the United States had been founded as a “liberal society” which unconsciously embraced the precepts of John Locke, in ways that dominated all other political perspectives throughout American history. Recent analysts of that thesis have focused on the relationship of this “liberal tradition” to American racial inequalities. How and why have both liberalism and racism grown so abundantly in the American political garden? This chapter reviews five types of responses: racism as an anomaly in American liberal society; the unity of American racism and liberalism; the existence of multiple liberalisms, some racist, some not; views seeing liberalism and racism as strongly symbiotic; and more contingent symbiotic accounts. None of these positions dominates modern scholarship. Together they define a vital research agenda.

Keywords: liberalism, racism, symbiosis, Louis Hartz, American political culture

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