Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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How did freedom--personal, civic and political--become such a powerful value in the Western world? According to this groundbreaking study, the interaction among masters, slaves, serfs and native nonslaves in ancient times gave rise to both the concept of freedom and a commitment to it. Harvard sociology professor Patterson argues that male, small-time farmers, through their relations with large-scale, slaveholding counterparts, gave birth to civic freedom as a value. He further contends that it was women who invented the ideal of personal freedom, which was closely linked to justice, and being true to oneself and to ``significant others.'' Challenging conventional readings of the so-called Dark Ages, Patterson holds that chords of freedom resounded through the medieval period. First half of a projected two-volume opus, this intellectually rich work redefines a whole field of inquiry as it ranges over Greek tragedy and philosophy, Roman history, the emergence of Christianity, and medieval secular and religious thought. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Patterson, a Harvard sociologist, argues that the idea of freedom is the supreme value in the Western world and increasingly so in the rest of the world. This book, the first of a projected two-volume inquiry, seeks to answer the question of how it became such a powerful and popular value. His basic thesis is that freedom as a value derived from the experience of slavery in the ancient world. He then traces the fate of the idea of freedom in the Roman empire, during the rise of Christianity, and in the Middle Ages. He further distinguishes between personal, sovereign, and civic freedom and analyzes the potential evils in each of these freedoms; e.g., personal liberty has led to unbridled capitalism, sovereign freedom to dictatorship, and civic freedom to the oppression of minorities. This is a scholarly treatise, but given the importance of the subject, it is highly recommended for public as well as academic libraries.-- Jeffrey R. Herold, Bucyrus P.L., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.