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On Liberty, Society, and Politics

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06/01/1992William Graham Sumner

William Graham Sumner is the "forgotten man" of American intellectual history and of the history of liberty. A thinker of extraordinary power, and a person who developed and integrated and thrilling view of the place of liberty in the development of society, he has too often dismissed or only superficially understood. It's great that his interpretations are now attracting closer scrutiny and appreciation.

He is remembered chiefly as one of the founding fathers of sociology. He was also a strong supporter of classical liberalism during a time when liberalism was being transformed into a belief in statism.

Sumner's analysis of the relation between the individual and society is deeper and more sophisticated than is commonly thought. For observers of the contemporary social scene, they raise issues concerning the relation of liberty to property and both to government that remain as vital as they were a century ago - or even more so!


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