Orlando Patterson

Orlando Patterson is professor of sociology at Harvard and the author of Freedom in the Making of Western Culture, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 1991.

Recent Articles

Our Cherished Paradoxes

American history is a series of clashes between personal freedom and societal order. Politics may be what holds us together.

A Tolerable Anarchy: Rebels, Reactionaries, and the Making of American Freedom by Jedediah Purdy, Alfred A. Knopf, 294 pages, $23.95 Freedom in America has been the subject of several lines of scholarship. Philosophers attempt to derive freedom's true meaning, intellectual historians examine what eminent minds have argued about it, and social historians study continuities and variations in its meanings and practices, while linguists decipher the ways of framing freedom in the political mind and empirically minded social scientists use surveys and interviews to probe what Americans think about freedom. In recent years, a more synthetic approach has emerged in which theory, intellectual and political history, and findings from political studies inform a critical appraisal of freedom in America. These works run the ideological gamut from James Bovard's Freedom in Chains on the right to the centrist critique of Matthew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg in Downsizing Democracy to thoroughly...