Calvinism's Discontents

To understand Liberalism, we need to understand early modern Calvinism.” This is the central claim made by Harvard professor James Simpson in his idiosyncratic but challenging new book, Permanent Revolution: The Reformation and the Illiberal Roots of Liberalism. As its dust jacket proclaims, Simpson means to rewrite the history of liberalism by uncovering “its unexpected debt to evangelical religion.” His aim is to show how the English Reformation, so authoritarian in its beginnings, culminated in the “proto-liberal” Glorious Revolution settlement of 1688–89 and led to the English Enlightenment.

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