Beyond liberal Utopia: Freedom as the problem of modernity
This essay critiques the concept of the punctual or autonomous self that served as the foundation of classical liberalism and its moral philosophy, beginning in the work of A. Smith, T. Paine, and I. Kant. Grounded in the language of rights, personal liberty, and rational self-possession, the modern individual is paradoxically characterized as a unique agent and as formally equivalent to all other such beings. Furthermore, its political and epistemological claims rest on unexamined assumptions about freedom that would be severely challenged by the pessimistic turn of much nineteenth-century literary and philosophical narrative.
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