In this essay I shall propose a theory about what liberalism is. Dworkin's project is here clearly exposed. And, as most political thinkers when they try to define a coherent theory at the fundaments of actual political movements, I face an immediate problem. My project supposes that there is such a thing as liberalism, liberalism as an authentic and a coherent political morality (L, 113). And thus, he widely opens the dark and sticky abyss of skepticism, particularly threatening to the so-called political liberals, and in which all their opponents from socialists to conservatives seek to precipitate them armed with their absolute doctrines. Indeed, liberalism as a political banner has been applied and endorsed by an extraordinary diversity of thoughts, acts, men, ideas, parties through time and space: and if with Dworkin we go through some of the recent ones, we might then be lead to the thesis of liberalism as a variable package of causes assembled by interest so what if we go back to the 18th century?
[...] Here, more precisely, in the “struggle between authority and liberty”, where a government is necessary, as well in a monarchy as in a democracy, only freedom that deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of their” (OL,15). This is the so-called harm principle. This liberty can be declined in basic rights: liberty of conscience opinion and sentiment and of expression, liberty of tastes and pursuits and freedom to unite. [...]
[...] This answer is what I would call the liberal tautology: is right because it is right”, to which liberal thinkers have come by their refusal to endorse and assume special theory of personality”. Reading Mill, I would say that such a statement is an expression of a certain bad faith. “[liberalism] is self-contradictory, because liberalism must itself be a theory of the good”. In his defense of the constitutive principle, Mill first apparently appeals to utilitarianism more than to morality: “Liberty has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion”(OL,13), strongest of all the arguments against the interference of the public with purely personal conduct, is that when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong place”. [...]
[...] I will continue always in this track until I shall find something that is certain, or at least, if I can do nothing more, until I shall know with certainty that there is nothing certain.”1 The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) indicates that the word liberal had long been used in English with the meanings of “befitting free men, noble, generous” as in “liberal also with the critical meaning “free from restraint in speech or action” or laudatively “free from prejudice, tolerant” Entering the 19th century according to the OED, it comes to mean “tending in favor of freedom and democracy” from the French libéral, originally applied in English by its opponents referring to the foreign lawlessness. [...]
[...] Obvious differences in so-called liberal policies throughout history would then be simply changes of derivative positions, as best means of achieving some different and more fundamental liberal goals”(L, 119): indeed, it is required of a political theory endorsed by active movements or parties playing a role in the governance to adapt local and current circumstances. Therefore, the New Deal liberalism would emphasize the value of economic growth through State intervention in a context where an economic crisis is endangering even the subsistence of part of the population, while if omnipresent, excessive protective regulation, restrictions to exchange and free enterprise were to impede the good functioning of the market and obviously endanger efficiency, as in the 19th century, liberals would call for free market. [...]
[...] Through their yearning for that everyone would be given the possibilities to follow one's conception of the good life, Mill claiming for diversity and Dworkin noticing that “citizens have different theories of the good and hence different principles” agree and partake in liberalism so far as liberal theory of equality rules out that appeal to the inherent value of one theory of what is good in life”(L,132), which is the fundamental core for any liberal as opposed to social-constructivist theories, from the American contemporary conservatives to socialism, thus fulfilling one of the four criteria for a constitutive principle discriminate a liberal political morality from other”(L,121). [...]
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