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Nock, Albert Jay (1870–1945)

Albert Jay Nock was one of the most thoroughgoing critics of using “political means” to achieve social ends in the American literary tradition. Libertarians have embraced Nock's often virulent antistatism, but his possession of the traits he ascribed to Jefferson—“radical principles and ideals combined with Tory manners”—have made Nock's contributions broader and more far reaching. From his first article in 1908 until his death in 1945, exploring “the quality of civilization in the United States” animated his social criticism, hopes, and scorn. He was, as his friend Bernard Iddings Bell described him, “[0]ne of the most gracious but pitiless of American social analysts in our time.” More recently, Jacques Barzun praised his writings as “social and intellectual criticism at its best.”

Nock was an intensely private ...

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