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Title: A liberalism without liberals
Author: Argenton, Carlo
ISNI:       0000 0004 5357 1288
Awarding Body: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Current Institution: London School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Over the course of (roughly) the past three decades, much of contemporary liberal political theory has followed John Rawls and taken a ‘political’ turn. Liberalism, it is now generally supposed, is a ‘political’ doctrine, not a philosophy of life. The most influential account of such a liberalism is public reason liberalism. According to public reason liberals, political rules and decisions have to be justified by appeal to ideas or arguments that those subject to them (at some level of idealisation) endorse or accept. Public reason is the standard by which moral or political rules can be assessed. In this thesis I do two things. First, I offer a critique of public reason liberalism. I argue that it fails to live up to the ideal of liberal reason, that it fails to take diversity seriously, and that it is based on a problematic account of political institutions. Second, I articulate a genuinely ‘political’ alternative, which I call a liberalism without liberals. I develop this alternative on the basis of a re-interpretation of David Hume’s critique of the social contract and of his account of pluralism, the moral order and social criticism. I argue that Hume understands political society as the product of shared interests and not (as social contract theorists suppose) as an embodiment of a common will. I also argue that Hume offers a compelling, nonsectarian account of the standards for moral and political evaluation and that he is capable of accommodating foundational pluralism. In sum, a Hume-inspired liberalism without liberals is a combination of (a) a specific idea concerning the nature of political society, (b) an attempt to take pluralism more seriously than has so far been countenanced by liberals, (c) a specific view concerning the distribution of authority in moral deliberation and the nature of social criticism, and (d) scepticism about political institutions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: JC Political theory