Wilfred McClay

About Wilfred McClay

Wilfred M. McClay holds the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma. His book, The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America, won the 1995 Merle Curti Award of the Organization of American Historians. McClay received his BA from St. John’s College in Annapolis and his doctoral degree in history from Johns Hopkins University.

In Search of the American Myth

By |2018-10-02T14:07:20-05:00April 27th, 2017|

Since throughout history, strong and cohesive nations generally have had strong and cohesive historical narratives, how long can America continue to do without one? Do our historians now have an obligation to help us recover one?… American history needs to be seen in the context of a larger drama. But there is sharp disagreement [...]

The Federal Idea

By |2019-03-11T14:08:31-05:00November 27th, 2016|

If we can begin to understand the sense of federalism as an idea rather than a fixed set of immutable relations, and moreover as an idea that is designed to balance and reconcile the competing claims of competing goods, then our debates over the promise of federalism may take on a new vitality and plausibility… Today’s offering [...]

The Legacy of “The Closing of the American Mind”

By |2015-05-27T10:15:19-05:00May 20th, 2015|

There can be no question of the signal importance and influence of The Closing of the American Mind. Any future historian who proposes to explain the “culture wars” of the 1980s and 1990s will have to contend with the looming presence of Allan Bloom’s grand and gloomy tome—along with the words and works of [...]

The Case for the Liberal Arts: Stronger than Ever?

By |2015-05-22T08:50:54-05:00May 14th, 2015|

If we are to make any kind of case for the liberal arts, we must first have a reasonably coherent notion of what the liberal arts are, and what they are for. That means clearing away some persistent misconceptions. First of all, the term “liberal arts” shouldn’t be understood as a synonym for “the [...]

Communitarianism and the Federal Idea

By |2019-04-02T15:59:52-05:00May 4th, 2015|Tags: |

The communitarian movement has arisen as an effort to address the evident and growing deficiencies of modern liberalism, which seems unable to think beyond the sovereign autonomy of rights-bearing individuals. But communitarianism has considerable deficiencies of its own. In particular, there is its propensity to use the language of “community” as a form of [...]

The Mystic Chords of Memory: Reclaiming American History

By |2015-05-17T08:36:12-05:00April 27th, 2015|

I am delighted to be with you this afternoon and to have a role in the Heritage Foundation’s worthy project of commemorating Russell Kirk’s many contributions to American intellectual life. My own task today is to explore the subject of historical consciousness in America—a subject about which, strange to say, Russell Kirk actually did [...]

Finding Your Place by Ennobling the World

By |2015-07-05T09:43:22-05:00October 14th, 2014|Tags: |

When I bring up the subject of “place” to fellow scholars and administrators, I often encounter blank stares and gentle skepticism. Why, I’m asked, would people want to talk about…place? Why would anyone want to write, or read, or hear about such an abstract, ineffable, ethereal concept? But when I talk to students about [...]

The Anti-Jefferson: John Dickinson

By |2015-05-17T08:36:12-05:00February 11th, 2014|Tags: |

The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John Dickinson by William Murchison Few habits of speech and thought inhibit our appreciation of those who created the United States of America more than our tendency to refer to them as “the Founders.” Not that the Founders do not form an identifiable group, and not that they are undeserving [...]

The Federal Idea

By |2019-03-07T10:57:42-05:00January 5th, 2013|

The concept of federalism has been one of the principal casualties of modern American history. One has to look far and wide to find American historians and political scientists who do not believe, with the smugness and tenacity of dogma, that our federal institutions are lumbering relics of a past we outgrew over a [...]