1989 was an outstanding year for the spread of liberty. In an article published during the summer, Francis Fukuyama comments on this new, remarkable victory of liberal democracy, and predicts the End of History as its consequence. Not only has his thesis been abruptly challenged in the following decades, empirically, but the idealistic belief in an ideological consensus was also strongly undermined by the persisting variability of the notion of liberty: no more than before did a monolithical discourse on liberty emerge during the 20th century.
Although one of its greatest political philosophers, Rawls, did not provide any explicit general definition of the concept, the fact that he attributes inalienability to a set of basic liberties in his first principle is noteworthy. By assuming that each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive scheme of equal basic liberties compatible with a similar scheme of liberties for others (including political liberty, freedom of speech and assembly, liberty of conscience and freedom of thought), Rawls ensures that citizens will develop the needed moral powers to build a just society, and more importantly that their specific conception of justice will not collapse into general conceptions of the good.
[...] If the discontinuity of two forms of liberty is alien to the republican tradition, the final reconciliation of the citizen and the individual, through the use of civic virtues for the common good, is thus a common concern of Philip Pettit and John Rawls. Andrès de Francisco writes that Rawls is as republican as one can be when administering two liberal heritages”. It is indeed quite understandable that on the one hand the clash of the individual and the community and on the other hand the myth of republican “perfectionist ethics” highly influences his political liberalism, and in this regard might be responsible for most of its misreading. [...]
[...] Similarly, in Democracy's Discontent, Michael Sandel traces the emergence of what he labels the “procedural republic” and condemns this prevailing (liberal) public philosophy for the erosion of the moral fabric of community. With a particular emphasis on the shift of language in American politics, he argues that the disempowerment of public life in reality undermines private liberty as well as the sense of community “because it cannot inspire [ ] the civic engagement that liberty requires” either The liberty of the citizen is not an optional dimension of individual liberty from this republican viewpoint, for the simple reason that liberty is indivisible. [...]
[...] As a result, Boetsche argues that the gap between their moderate conceptions, respectively labeled as liberal and republican, is mostly a rhetorical one, to such an extent that the configuration of the slave and the master would have been criticized by Rawls too. One could argue by extension that Sandel's critique of the “procedural republic” fails when it labels Rawls the proponent, let alone the spokesman, of the doctrine of state neutrality (Farelly, p. 32). The main reason for this kind of misinterpretation is the notion of contingence: even though he does assign a substantial value to political virtues, rawlsian liberalism ceaselessly reminds that this “does not lead to the perfectionist state of a comprehensive doctrine” but to the possible endorsement of a republican view. [...]
[...] Undoubtedly, the compatibility of liberalism and republicanism would not have been possible if Pettit and Rawls had not both proposed an open theory and taken some substantial distance with their predecessors. A first distinction has to be made, and is made by both thinkers, between “classical republicanism” -which they trace to Ancient Rome- and “civic humanism” -which reached its peak in Athens before being revived by Hannah Arendt- (Richardson, p. 180). Whereas the latter believes in the virtues of a homogeneous community to achieve a paroxysmal (positive) liberty, the classical republicanism embodied by Pettit and Skinner remains staunchly attached to individual independence and does not succumb to the tempting but fallacious ideal that collective deliberation is the supreme means towards the constitution of the common good. [...]
[...] 29-35 John FEREJOHN “Pettit's Republic”, The Monist 84 (2001), pp. 77-97 Anthony Simon LADEN, “Republican Moments in Political Liberalism”, Croatian Journal of Philosophy 1 (2001), pp. 210-237 Charles LARMORE, “Républicanisme et libéralisme chez Philip Pettit Cahiers de Philosophie de l'Université de Caen 34 (2000), pp. 115-125 Alan PATTEN, Republican critique of liberalism”, British Journal of Political Science 26, No (Jan., 1996), pp. 25-44. Philip PETTIT, Republicanism : A Theory of Freedom and Government (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997) Philip PETTIT, “Freedom as Antipower”, Ethics 106 (1996), p. [...]
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