What Was Liberalism?: The Past, Present, and Promise of a Noble Idea

James Traub (Author)

Product Details

Basic Books
Publish Date
September 24, 2019
6.0 X 1.0 X 9.3 inches | 1.15 pounds

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About the Author

James Traub has spent the last forty years as a journalist for American's leading publications, including the New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine. He now teaches foreign policy and intellectual history at New York University and at NYU Abu Dhabi, and is a columnist and contributor at Foreign Policy. He is the author of six previous books on foreign and domestic affairs. His most recent work is John Quincy Adams: Militant Spirit. He lives in New York City.


"No post-mortem, James Traub's urgent book accounts for what liberalism has been, why it stumbled, and why it must revive. Much as in the 1930s, assaults on liberal politics from the right and the left practically define our low, dishonest time. Traub joins a rising tide of writers, citizens, and political leaders who are reclaiming the rich, soulful, and indispensable liberal tradition."--Sean Wilentz
"What Was Liberalism? provides a concise guide to both the origins and current travails of the most important idea of our time, one that is being threatened by populists and authoritarians today around the world. It is both sympathetic about liberalism's virtues and clear-eyed as to its limitations, showing us a way forward out of the present crisis."--Francis Fukuyama
"In this remarkable tour de force, James Traub traces the roots of the idea of liberalism with such nuance and depth that even those steeped in political philosophy will gain insight--still more those of us who simply care about basic concepts of governance. This is an invaluable guide to the crisis that now afflicts the West."--John Sexton, President Emeritus of New York University
"Traub's is the most muscular of these [liberalism-is-dying] books in tracing liberalism's evolution."--New York Times Book Review
"Writing in elegant, aphoristic prose, Traub's trenchant analysis takes populist discontents seriously.... The result is a clear-eyed, timely discussion that illuminates both liberalism's humanity and its hubris." --Publishers Weekly