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.
[...] This stalemate is all the more problematic that Pettit's normative thinking, on the contrary, overcomes the classical dichotomy between the liberty enjoyed by the citizen (positive) and that of the individual (negative), by invoking the alternative concept of non-domination. The dominating agent is either single or collective, but identifiable because he can use his power of inference on an arbitrary basis. A meaningful and straightforward metaphor of the concept of non-domination is the meeting of a slave and his master described by Pettit. [...]
[...] Moreover, his general acceptance of law seems to demonstrate that he does not equate liberty and absence of obstacles. "Whether men are free," he writes, "is determined by the rights and duties established by the major institutions of society. Liberty is a certain pattern of social forms". Law and liberty, in his view, are not intrinsically opposed, but their relationship is highly dependent on the nature of the regulation: a non- perfectionist law, compliant with the basic liberties, is acceptable and even desirable. [...]
[...] Unsurprisingly, Rawls' conceptualization of the common good as a tabula rasa paves the way for harsh Hegel-inspired criticism. Catherine Audard interestingly associates his liberal neutralism with the controversies of his work's reception in France especially within the philosophical circles, guardians of the Republic. 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. [...]
[...] (1993), Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press, p This is a major opposition with John Locke, one of the founding fathers of liberalism. Audard, p Rawls, J. (1993), Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press, p Rawls, J. (1993), Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University Press David Miller's assumption, that Rawls divides the society between and “inactive citizens, refuses to accept this nuanced version of the society. Once again, Rawls proposes a non-perfectionist regime reconciling individual and political liberties. Rawls, J (1995), Reply to Habermas Journal of Philosophy pp. [...]
[...] Are the basic liberties a liberal dogma? The scrutiny of Pettit and Rawls's founding principles seems to reveal an irreducible conflict between their theories of liberty. The result is that whoever considers that the defense of individual liberties cannot be the unique leitmotiv of a society might plead the case of the republican version of liberty. However, it is necessary to reassess the contrast between “justice as fairness” and liberty as non –domination” to get a better understanding of the basic liberties' genuine purposes (II). [...]
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