The third Earl of Shaftesbury was a pivotal figure in eighteenth-century thought and culture. Professor Klein's study is the first to examine the extensive Shaftesbury manuscripts and offer an interpretation of his diverse writings as an attempt to comprehend contemporary society and politics and, in particular, to offer a legitimation for the new Whig political order established after 1688. As the focus of Shaftesbury's thinking was the idea of politeness, this study involves the first serious examination of the importance of the idea of politeness in the eighteenth century for thinking about society and culture and organising cultural practices. Through politeness, Shaftesbury conceptualised a new kind of public and critical culture for Britain and Europe, and greatly influenced the philosophical and cultural models associated with the European Enlightenment.
"Klein has produced a detailed and thought provoking account of the earl's work, both in print and unpublished, through close textual analysis...Lawrence Klein has written a book that will be of great value to historians seeking to understand the intellectual and cultural upheavals that accompanied Britain's journey towards modernity." Victor Stater, Albion "Klein's study will be illuminating to a broad range of scholars, including philosophers, literary specialists, and historians of political thought, religion, the arts, and manners. It highlights Shaftesbury's political purposes but does not ignore his more frequently studied ideas regarding philosophy and morality. The book's strength is that it evaluates the bulk of Shaftesbury's writings, showing how complex and multifaceted a thinker he was." Marjorie Morgan, American Historical Review "Klein's argument is a solid historical one...his book is an intelligent and useful attempt to see Shaftesbury steadily and whole." John Sitter, SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 "Klein's study of Shaftesbury is rich and insightful ... his is also virtually the only stand alone contemporary treatment of Shaftesbury." International Journal of the Classical Tradition