You are on page 1of 37

pdf version of the entry

Liberalism
http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2015/entries/liberalism/
from the Spring 2015 Edition of the

Stanford Encyclopedia
of Philosophy

Edward N. Zalta
Principal Editor

Uri Nodelman
Senior Editor

Colin Allen
Associate Editor

R. Lanier Anderson
Faculty Sponsor

Editorial Board
http://plato.stanford.edu/board.html
Library of Congress Catalog Data
ISSN: 1095-5054

Notice: This PDF version was distributed by request to members of the Friends of the SEP Society and by courtesy to SEP
content contributors. It is solely for their fair use. Unauthorized
distribution is prohibited. To learn how to join the Friends of the
SEP Society and obtain authorized PDF versions of SEP entries,
please visit https://leibniz.stanford.edu/friends/ .
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
c 2013 by the publisher
Copyright
The Metaphysics Research Lab
Center for the Study of Language and Information
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305
Liberalism
c 2015 by the authors
Copyright
Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland
All rights reserved.
Copyright policy: https://leibniz.stanford.edu/friends/info/copyright/

Liberalism
First published Thu Nov 28, 1996; substantive revision Mon Dec 22, 2014

As soon as one examines it, liberalism fractures into a variety of types


and competing visions. In this entry we focus on debates within the liberal
tradition. We begin by (1) examining different interpretations of
liberalism's core commitment liberty. We then consider (2) the
longstanding debate between the old and the new liberalism. In section
(3) we turn to the more recent controversy about whether liberalism is a
comprehensive or a political doctrine. We close in (4) by considering
disagreements as to the reach of liberalism does it apply to all
humankind, and must all political communities be liberal?
1. The Debate About Liberty
1.1 The Presumption in Favor of Liberty
1.2 Negative Liberty
1.3 Positive Liberty
1.4 Republican Liberty
2. The Debate Between the Old and the New
2.1 Classical Liberalism
2.2 The New Liberalism
2.3 Liberal Theories of Social Justice
3. The Debate About the Comprehensiveness of Liberalism
3.1 Political Liberalism
3.2 Liberal Ethics
3.3 Liberal Theories of Value
3.4 The Metaphysics of Liberalism
4. The Debate About The Reach of Liberalism
4.1 Is Liberalism Justified in All Political Communities?
4.2 Is Liberalism a Cosmopolitan or a State-centered Theory?
4.3 Liberal Interaction with Non-Liberal Groups: International

Liberalism

4.4 Liberal Interaction with Non-Liberal Groups: Domestic


5. Conclusion
Bibliography
Academic Tools
Other Internet Resources
Related Entries

1. The Debate About Liberty


1.1 The Presumption in Favor of Liberty
By definition, Maurice Cranston rightly points out, a liberal is a man
who believes in liberty (1967: 459). In two different ways, liberals accord
liberty primacy as a political value. (i) Liberals have typically maintained
that humans are naturally in a State of perfect Freedom to order their
Actionsas they think fitwithout asking leave, or depending on the
Will of any other Man (Locke, 1960 [1689]: 287). Mill too argued that
the burden of proof is supposed to be with those who are against liberty;
who contend for any restriction or prohibition. The a priori assumption
is in favour of freedom (1963, vol. 21: 262). Recent liberal thinkers
such as as Joel Feinberg (1984: 9), Stanley Benn (1988: 87) and John
Rawls (2001: 44, 112) agree. This might be called the Fundamental
Liberal Principle (Gaus, 1996: 162-166): freedom is normatively basic,
and so the onus of justification is on those who would limit freedom,
especially through coercive means. It follows from this that political
authority and law must be justified, as they limit the liberty of citizens.
Consequently, a central question of liberal political theory is whether
political authority can be justified, and if so, how. It is for this reason that
social contract theory, as developed by Thomas Hobbes (1948 [1651]),
John Locke (1960 [1689]), Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1973 [1762]) and
Immanuel Kant (1965 [1797]), is usually viewed as liberal even though

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

the actual political prescriptions of, say, Hobbes and Rousseau, have
distinctly illiberal features. Insofar as they take as their starting point a
state of nature in which humans are free and equal, and so argue that any
limitation of this freedom and equality stands in need of justification (i.e.,
by the social contract), the contractual tradition expresses the Fundamental
Liberal Principle.
(ii) The Fundamental Liberal Principle holds that restrictions on liberty
must be justified, and because he accepts this, we can understand Hobbes
as espousing a liberal political theory. But Hobbes is at best a qualified
liberal, for he also argues that drastic limitations on liberty can be
justified. Paradigmatic liberals such as Locke not only advocate the
Fundamental Liberal Principle, but also maintain that justified limitations
on liberty are fairly modest. Only a limited government can be justified;
indeed, the basic task of government is to protect the equal liberty of
citizens. Thus John Rawls's first principle of justice: Each person is to
have an equal right to the most extensive system of equal basic liberty
compatible with a similar system for all (Rawls, 1999b: 220).

1.2 Negative Liberty


Liberals disagree, however, about the concept of liberty, and as a result the
liberal ideal of protecting individual liberty can lead to very different
conceptions of the task of government. As is well-known, Isaiah Berlin
advocated a negative conception of liberty:
I am normally said to be free to the degree to which no man or
body of men interferes with my activity. Political liberty in this
sense is simply the area within which a man can act unobstructed
by others. If I am prevented by others from doing what I could
otherwise do, I am to that degree unfree; and if this area is
contracted by other men beyond a certain minimum, I can be

Spring 2015 Edition

Liberalism

described as being coerced, or, it may be, enslaved. Coercion is


not, however, a term that covers every form of inability. If I say
that I am unable to jump more than ten feet in the air, or cannot
read because I am blindit would be eccentric to say that I am to
that degree enslaved or coerced. Coercion implies the deliberate
interference of other human beings within the area in which I could
otherwise act. You lack political liberty or freedom only if you are
prevented from attaining a goal by other human beings (Berlin,
1969: 122).
For Berlin and those who follow him, then, the heart of liberty is the
absence of coercion by others; consequently, the liberal state's
commitment to protecting liberty is, essentially, the job of ensuring that
citizens do not coerce each other without compelling justification. So
understood, negative liberty is an opportunity-concept. Being free is
merely a matter of what we can do, what options are open to us, regardless
of whether or not we exercise such options (Taylor, 1979).

1.3 Positive Liberty


Many liberals have been attracted to more positive conceptions of
liberty. Although Rousseau (1973 [1762]) seemed to advocate a positive
conception of liberty, according to which one was free when one acted
according to one's true will (the general will), the positive conception was
best developed by the British neo-Hegelians of the late nineteenth and
early twentieth centuries, such as Thomas Hill Green and Bernard
Bosanquet (2001 [1923]). Green acknowledged that it must be of
course admitted that every usage of the term [i.e., freedom] to express
anything but a social and political relation of one man to other involves a
metaphorIt always impliessome exemption from compulsion by
another(1986 [1895]: 229). Nevertheless, Green went on to claim that
a person can be unfree if he is subject to an impulse or craving that cannot

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

be controlled. Such a person, Green argued, is in the condition of a


bondsman who is carrying out the will of another, not his own (1986
[1895]: 228). Just as a slave is not doing what he really wants to do, one
who is, say, an alcoholic, is being led by a craving to look for satisfaction
where it cannot, ultimately, be found.
For Green, a person is free only if she is self-directed or autonomous.
Running throughout liberal political theory is an ideal of a free person as
one whose actions are in some sense her own.In this sense, positive liberty
is an exercise-concept. One is free merely to the degree that one has
effectively determined oneself and the shape of one's life (Taylor, 1979).
Such a person is not subject to compulsions, critically reflects on her
ideals and so does not unreflectively follow custom, and does not ignore
her long-term interests for short-term pleasures. This ideal of freedom as
autonomy has its roots not only in Rousseau's and Kant's political theory,
but also in John Stuart Mill's On Liberty. And today it is a dominant strain
in liberalism, as witnessed by the work of S.I. Benn (1988), Gerald
Dworkin (1988), and Joseph Raz (1986); see also the essays in Christman
and Anderson (2005).
This Greenian, autonomy-based, conception of positive freedom is often
run together with a very different notion of positive freedom: freedom as
effective power to act or to pursue one's ends. In the words of the British
socialist R. H. Tawney, freedom thus understood is the ability act (1931:
221; see also Gaus, 2000; ch. 5.) On this view of positive freedom, a
person who is not prohibited from being a member of a Country Club but
who is too poor to afford membership is not free to be a member: she does
not have an effective power to act. Although the Greenian autonomybased conception of positive freedom certainly had implications for the
distribution of resources (education, for example, should be easily
available so that all can develop their capacities), positive freedom qua
effective power to act closely ties freedom to material resources. It was

Spring 2015 Edition

Liberalism

this conception of positive liberty that Hayek had in mind when he insisted
that although freedom and wealth are both good thingsthey still remain
different (1960: 17-18).

1.4 Republican Liberty


An older notion of liberty that has recently undergone resurgence is the
republican, or neo-Roman, conception of liberty which has its roots in the
writings of Cicero and Niccolo Machiavelli (1950 [1513]). According to
Philip Pettit,
The contrary of the liber, or free, person in Roman, republican
usage was the servus, or slave, and up to at least the beginning of
the last century, the dominant connotation of freedom, emphasized
in the long republican tradition, was not having to live in servitude
to another: not being subject to the arbitrary power of another.
(Pettit, 1996: 576)
On this view, the opposite of freedom is domination. An agent is said to be
unfree if she is subject to the potentially capricious will or the potentially
idiosyncratic judgement of another (Pettit, 1997: 5). The ideal libertyprotecting government, then, ensures that no agent, including itself, has
arbitrary power over any citizen. The key method by which this is
accomplished is through an equal disbursement of power. Each person has
power that offsets the power of another to arbitrarily interfere with her
activities (Pettit, 1997: 67).
The republican conception of liberty is certainly distinct from both
Greenian positive and negative conceptions. Unlike Greenian positive
liberty, republican liberty is not primarily concerned with rational
autonomy, realizing one's true nature, or becoming one's higher self. When
all dominating power has been dispersed, republican theorists are
generally silent about these goals (Larmore 2001). Unlike negative liberty,

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

republican liberty is primarily focused upon defenseless susceptibility to


interference, rather than actual interference (Pettit, 1996: 577). Thus, in
contrast to the ordinary negative conception, on the republican conception
the mere possibility of arbitrary interference appears to constitute a
limitation of liberty. Republican liberty thus seems to involve a modal
claim about the possibility of interference, and this is often cashed out in
terms of complex counterfactual claims. It is not clear whether these
claims can be adequately explicated (Gaus, 2003; cf. Larmore, 2004).
Some republican theorists, such as Quentin Skinner (1998: 113), Maurizio
Viroli (2002: 6) and Pettit (1997: 8-11), view republicanism as an
alternative to liberalism. Insofar as republican liberty is seen as a basis for
criticizing market liberty and market society, this is plausible (Gaus,
2003b). However, when liberalism is understood more expansively, and
not so closely tied to either negative liberty or market society,
republicanism becomes indistinguishable from liberalism (Ghosh, 2008;
Rogers, 2008; Larmore, 2001; Dagger, 1997).

2. The Debate Between the Old and the New


2.1 Classical Liberalism
Liberal political theory, then, fractures over the conception of liberty. But
a more important division concerns the place of private property and the
market order. For classical liberals sometimes called the old
liberalism liberty and private property are intimately related. From the
eighteenth century right up to today, classical liberals have insisted that an
economic system based on private property is uniquely consistent with
individual liberty, allowing each to live her life including employing her
labor and her capital as she sees fit. Indeed, classical liberals and
libertarians have often asserted that in some way liberty and property are
really the same thing; it has been argued, for example, that all rights,

Spring 2015 Edition

Liberalism

including liberty rights, are forms of property; others have maintained that
property is itself a form of freedom (Gaus, 1994; Steiner, 1994). A market
order based on private property is thus seen as an embodiment of freedom
(Robbins, 1961: 104). Unless people are free to make contracts and to sell
their labour, or unless they are free to save their incomes and then invest
them as they see fit, or unless they are free to run enterprises when they
have obtained the capital, they are not really free.
Classical liberals employ a second argument connecting liberty and
private property. Rather than insisting that the freedom to obtain and
employ private property is simply one aspect of people's liberty, this
second argument insists that private property is the only effective means
for the protection of liberty. Here the idea is that the dispersion of power
that results from a free market economy based on private property protects
the liberty of subjects against encroachments by the state. As F.A. Hayek
argues, There can be no freedom of press if the instruments of printing
are under government control, no freedom of assembly if the needed
rooms are so controlled, no freedom of movement if the means of
transport are a government monopoly (1978: 149).
Although classical liberals agree on the fundamental importance of private
property to a free society, the classical liberal tradition itself refracts into a
spectrum of views, from near-anarchist to those that attribute a significant
role to the state in economic and social policy (on this spectrum, see Mack
and Gaus, 2004). Towards the most extreme libertarian end of the
classical liberal spectrum are views of justified states as legitimate
monopolies that may with justice charge for their necessary rightsprotection services: taxation is legitimate so long as it is necessary to
protect liberty and property rights. As we go further leftward we
encounter classical liberal views that allow taxation for (other) public
goods and social infrastructure and, moving yet further left, some
classical liberal views allow for a modest social minimum.(e.g., Hayek,

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

1976: 87). Most nineteenth century classical liberal economists endorsed a


variety of state policies, encompassing not only the criminal law and
enforcement of contracts, but the licensing of professionals, health, safety
and fire regulations, banking regulations, commercial infrastructure
(roads, harbors and canals) and often encouraged unionization (Gaus,
1983b). Although today classical liberalism is often associated with
extreme forms of libertarianism, the classical liberal tradition was
centrally concerned with bettering the lot of the working class. The aim, as
Bentham put it, was to make the poor richer, not the rich poorer (Bentham,
1952 [1795]: vol. 1, 226n). Consequently, classical liberals reject the
redistribution of wealth as a legitimate aim of government.

2.2 The New Liberalism


What has come to be known as new, revisionist, welfare state, or
perhaps best, social justice, liberalism challenges this intimate
connection between personal liberty and a private property based market
order (Freeden, 1978; Gaus, 1983b; Paul, Miller and Paul, 2007). Three
factors help explain the rise of this revisionist theory. First, the new
liberalism arose in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a
period in which the ability of a free market to sustain what Lord Beveridge
(1944: 96) called a prosperous equilibrium was being questioned.
Believing that a private property based market tended to be unstable, or
could, as Keynes argued (1973 [1936]), get stuck in an equilibrium with
high unemployment, new liberals came to doubt that it was an adequate
foundation for a stable, free society. Here the second factor comes into
play: just as the new liberals were losing faith in the market, their faith in
government as a means of supervising economic life was increasing. This
was partly due to the experiences of the First World War, in which
government attempts at economic planning seemed to succeed (Dewey,
1929: 551-60); more importantly, this reevaluation of the state was
spurred by the democratization of western states, and the conviction that,

Spring 2015 Edition

Liberalism

for the first time, elected officials could truly be, in J.A. Hobson's phrase
representatives of the community (1922: 49). As D.G. Ritchie
proclaimed:
be it observed that arguments used against government action,
where the government is entirely or mainly in the hands of a ruling
class or caste, exercising wisely or unwisely a paternal or
grandmotherly authority such arguments lose their force just in
proportion as the government becomes more and more genuinely
the government of the people by the people themselves (1896: 64).
The third factor underlying the development of the new liberalism was
probably the most fundamental: a growing conviction that, so far from
being the guardian of every other right (Ely, 1992: 26), property rights
generated an unjust inequality of power that led to a less-than-equal liberty
(typically, positive liberty) for the working class. This theme is central to
what is usually called liberalism in American politics, combining a
strong endorsement of civil and personal liberties with, at best, an
indifference, and often enough an antipathy, to private ownership. The
seeds of this newer liberalism can be found in Mill's On Liberty. Although
Mill insisted that the so-called doctrine of Free Trade rested on equally
solid grounds as did the principle of individual liberty (1963, vol. 18:
293), he nevertheless insisted that the justifications of personal and
economic liberty were distinct. And in his Principles of Political Economy
Mill consistently emphasized that it is an open question whether personal
liberty can flourish without private property (1963, vol. 2; 203-210), a
view that Rawls was to reassert over a century later (2001: Part IV).

2.3 Liberal Theories of Social Justice


One of the many consequences of Rawls's great work, A Theory of Justice
(1999 [first published in 1971]) is that the new liberalism has become

10

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

focused on developing a theory of social justice. For over thirty-five years


liberal political philosophers have analyzed, and disputed, his famous
difference principle according to which a just basic structure of society
arranges social and economic inequalities such that they are to the greatest
advantage of the least well off representative group (1999b: 266). For
Rawls, the default is an equal distribution of (basically) income and
wealth; only inequalities that best enhance the long-term prospects of the
least advantaged are just. As Rawls sees it, the difference principle
constitutes a public recognition of the principle of reciprocity: the basic
structure is to be arranged such that no social group advances at the cost of
another (2001: 122-24). Many followers of Rawls have focused less on the
ideal of reciprocity than the commitment to equality (Dworkin, 2000).
Indeed, what was previously called welfare state liberalism is now often
described as egalitarian liberalism. And in one way that is especially
appropriate: in his later work Rawls insists that welfare-state capitalism
does not constitute a just basic structure (2001: 137-38). If some version
of capitalism is to be just it must be a property owning democracy with a
wide diffusion of ownership; a market socialist regime, in Rawls's view, is
more just than welfare-state capitalism (2001: 135-38). Not too
surprisingly, classical liberals such as Hayek (1976) insist that the
contemporary liberal fixation on the mirage of social justice leads them
to ignore the way that freedom depends on a decentralized market based
on private property, the overall results of which are unpredictable. In a
similar vein, Robert Nozick (1974: 160ff) famously argued that any
attempt to ensure that market transactions conform to any specific pattern
of holdings will involve constant interferences with individual freedom.

3. The Debate About the Comprehensiveness of


Liberalism
3.1 Political Liberalism

Spring 2015 Edition

11

Liberalism

As his work evolved, Rawls (1996: 5ff) insisted that his liberalism was not
a comprehensive doctrine, that is, one which includes an overall theory
of value, an ethical theory, an epistemology, or a controversial
metaphysics of the person and society. Our modern societies,
characterized by a reasonable pluralism, are already filled with such
doctrines. The aim of political liberalism is not to add yet another
sectarian doctrine, but to provide a political framework that is neutral
between such controversial comprehensive doctrines (Larmore, 1996:
121ff). If it is to serve as the basis for public reasoning in our diverse
western societies, liberalism must be restricted to a core set of political
principles that are, or can be, the subject of consensus among all
reasonable citizens. Rawls's notion of a purely political conception of
liberalism seems more austere than the traditional liberal political theories
discussed above, being largely restricted to constitutional principles
upholding basic civil liberties and the democratic process.
As Gaus (2004) has argued, the distinction between political and
comprehensive liberalism misses a great deal. Liberal theories form a
broad continuum, from those that constitute full-blown philosophical
systems, to those that rely on a full theory of value and the good, to those
that rely on a theory of the right (but not the good), all the way to those
that seek to be purely political doctrines. Nevertheless, it is important to
appreciate that, though liberalism is primarily a political theory, it has
been associated with broader theories of ethics, value and society. Indeed,
many believe that liberalism cannot rid itself of all controversial
metaphysical (Hampton, 1989) or epistemological (Raz, 1990)
commitments.

3.2 Liberal Ethics


Following Wilhelm von Humboldt (1993 [1854]), in On Liberty Mill
argues that one basis for endorsing freedom (Mill believes that there are

12

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

many), is the goodness of developing individuality and cultivating


capacities:
Individuality is the same thing with development, andit is only
the cultivation of individuality which produces, or can produce,
well-developed human beingswhat more can be said of any
condition of human affairs, than that it brings human beings
themselves nearer to the best thing they can be? or what worse can
be said of any obstruction to good, than that it prevents this? (Mill,
1963, vol. 18: 267)
This is not just a theory about politics: it is a substantive, perfectionist,
moral theory about the good. And, on this view, the right thing to do is to
promote development or perfection, and only a regime securing extensive
liberty for each person can accomplish this (Wall, 1998). This moral ideal
of human perfection and development dominated liberal thinking in the
latter part of the nineteenth, and for most of the twentieth, century: not
only Mill, but T.H. Green, L.T. Hobhouse, Bernard Bosanquet, John
Dewey and even Rawls show allegiance to variants of this perfectionist
ethic and the claim that it provides a foundation for endorsing a regime of
liberal rights (Gaus, 1983a). And it is fundamental to the proponents of
liberal autonomy discussed above, as well as liberal virtue theorists such
as William Galston (1980). That the good life is necessarily a freely
chosen one in which a person develops his unique capacities as part of a
plan of life is probably the dominant liberal ethic of the past century.
The main challenge to Millian perfectionism as the distinctly liberal ethic
comes from moral contractualism, which can be divided into what might
very roughly be labeled Kantian and Hobbesian versions. According to
Kantian contractualism, society, being composed of a plurality of
persons, each with his own aims, interests, and conceptions of the good, is
best arranged when it is governed by principles that do not themselves

Spring 2015 Edition

13

Liberalism

presuppose any particular conception of the good (Sandel, 1982: 1).


On this view, respect for the person of others demands that we refrain
from imposing our view of the good life on them. Only principles that can
be justified to all respect the personhood of each. We thus witness the
tendency of recent liberal theory (Reiman, 1990; Scanlon, 1998) to
transform the social contract from an account of the state to an overall
justification of morality, or at least a social morality. Basic to such
Kantian contractualism is the idea that suitably idealized individuals are
motivated not by the pursuit of gain, but by a commitment or desire to
publicly justify the claims they make on others (Reiman, 1990; Scanlon,
1982). A moral code that could be the object of agreement among such
individuals is thus a publicly justified morality.
In contrast, the Hobbesian version of contractualism supposes only that
individuals are self-interested, and correctly perceive that each person's
ability to effectively pursue her interests is enhanced by a framework of
norms that structure social life and divide the fruits of social cooperation
(Gauither, 1986; Hampton, 1986; Kavka, 1986). Morality, then, is a
common framework that advances the self-interest of each. The claim of
Hobbesian contractualism to be a distinctly liberal conception of morality
stems from the importance of individual freedom and property in such a
common framework: only systems of norms that allow each person great
freedom to pursue her interests as she sees fit could, it is argued, be the
object of consensus among self-interested agents (Courtland, 2008; Gaus
2003a: chap. 3; Gaus, 2012; Ridge, 1998; Gauthier, 1995). The continuing
problem for Hobbesian contractualism is the apparent rationality of freeriding: if everyone (or enough) complies with the terms of the contract,
and so social order is achieved, it would seem rational to defect, and act
immorally when one can gain by doing so. This is essentially the argument
of Hobbes's Foole, and from Hobbes (1948 [1651]: 94ff) to Gauthier
(1986: 160ff), Hobbesians have tried to reply to it.

14

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

3.3 Liberal Theories of Value


Turning from rightness to goodness, we can identify three main candidates
for a liberal theory of value. We have already encountered the first:
perfectionism. Insofar as perfectionism is a theory of right action, it can be
understood as an account of morality. Obviously, however, it is an account
of rightness that presupposes a theory of value or the good: the ultimate
human value is developed personality or an autonomous life. Competing
with this objectivist theory of value are two other liberal accounts:
pluralism and subjectivism.
In his famous defence of negative liberty, Berlin insisted that values or
ends are plural, and no interpersonally justifiable ranking among these
many ends is to be had. More than that, Berlin maintained that the pursuit
of one end necessarily implies that other ends will not be achieved. In this
sense ends collide or, in the more prosaic terms of economics, the pursuit
of one end necessarily entails opportunity costs in relation to others which
cannot be impersonally shown to be less worthy. So there is no
interpersonally justifiable way to rank the ends, and there is no way to
achieve them all. The upshot is that each person must devote herself to
some ends at the cost of ignoring others. For the pluralist, then, autonomy,
perfection or development are not necessarily ranked higher than
hedonistic pleasures, environmental preservation or economic equality.
All compete for our allegiance, but because they are incommensurable, no
choice can be interpersonally justified as correct.
The pluralist is not a subjectivist: that values are many, competing and
incommensurable does not imply that they are somehow dependent on
subjective experiences. But the claim that what a person values rests on
experiences that vary from person to person has long been a part of the
liberal tradition. To Hobbes, what one values depends on what one desires
(1948 [1651]: 48). Locke advances a taste theory of value:

Spring 2015 Edition

15

Liberalism

The Mind has a different relish, as well as the Palate; and you will
as fruitlessly endeavour to delight all Man with Riches or Glory,
(which yet some Men place their Happiness in,) as you would
satisfy all men's Hunger with Cheese or Lobsters; which, though
very agreeable and delicious fare to some, are to others extremely
nauseous and offensive: And many People would with reason
preferr [sic] the griping of an hungry Belly, to those Dishes, which
are a Feast to others. Hence it was, I think, that the Philosophers of
old did in vain enquire, whether the Summum bonum consisted in
Riches, or bodily Delights, or Virtue, or Contemplation: And they
might have as reasonably disputed, whether the best Relish were to
be found in Apples, Plumbs or Nuts; and have divided themselves
into Sects upon it. Forpleasant Tastes depend not on the things
themselves, but their agreeableness to this or that particulare
Palate, wherein there is great variety(1975 [1706]: 269).
The perfectionist, the pluralist and the subjectivist concur on the crucial
point: the nature of value is such that reasonable people pursue different
ways of living. To the perfectionist, this is because each person has unique
capacities, the development of which confers value on her life; to the
pluralist, it is because values are many and conflicting, and no one life can
include them all, or make the interpersonally correct choice among them;
and to the subjectivist, it is because our ideas about what is valuable stem
from our desires or tastes, and these differ from one individual to another.
All three views, then, defend the basic liberal idea that people rationally
follow very different ways of living. But in themselves, such notions of
the good do not constitute a full-fledged liberal ethic, for an additional
argument is required linking liberal value with norms of equal liberty. To
be sure, Berlin seems to believe this is a very quick argument: the inherent
plurality of ends points to the political preeminence of liberty (see, for
example, Gray: 2006). Guaranteeing each a measure of negative liberty is,
Berlin argues, the most humane ideal, as it recognises that human goals

16

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

are many, and no one can make a choice that is right for all people (1969:
171). But the move from diversity to equal liberty and individual rights
seems a complicated one; it is here that both subjectivists and pluralists
often rely on versions of moral contractualism. Those who insist that
liberalism is ultimately a nihilistic theory can be interpreted as arguing
that this transition cannot be made successfully: liberals, on their view, are
stuck with a subjectivistic or pluralistic theory of value, and no account of
the right emerges from it.

3.4 The Metaphysics of Liberalism


Throughout the last century, liberalism has been beset by controversies
between, on the one hand, those broadly identified as individualists and,
on the other, collectivists, communitarians or organicists (for
skepticism about this, though, see Bird, 1999). These vague and sweeping
designations have been applied to a wide array of disputes; we focus here
on controversies concerning (i) the nature of society; (ii) the nature of the
self.
Liberalism is, of course, usually associated with individualist analyses of
society. Human beings in society, Mill claimed, have no properties but
those which are derived from, and which may be resolved into, the laws of
the nature of individual men (1963, Vol. 8: 879; see also Bentham: 1970
[1823]: chap. I, sec. 4). Herbert Spencer agreed: the properties of the
mass are dependent upon the attributes of its component parts (1995
[1851]: 1). In the last years of the nineteenth century this individualist
view was increasingly subject to attack, especially by those who were
influenced by idealist philosophy. D. G. Ritche, criticizing Spencer's
individualist liberalism, explicitly rejected the idea that society is simply a
heap of individuals, insisting that it is more akin to an organism, with a
complex internal life (1896: 13). Liberals such as L. T. Hobhouse and
Dewey refused to adopt radically collectivist views such as those

Spring 2015 Edition

17

Liberalism

advocated by Bernard Bosanquet (2001), but they too rejected the radical
individualism of Bentham, Mill and Spencer. Throughout most of the first
half of the twentieth century such organic analyses of society held sway
in liberal theory, even in economics (see A.F Mummery and J. A. Hobson,
1956: 106; J.M. Keynes, 1972: 275).
During and after the Second World War the idea that liberalism was based
on inherently individualist analysis of humans-in-society arose again. Karl
Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) presented a sustained
critique of Hegelian and Marxist theory and its collectivist and historicist,
and to Popper, inherently illiberal, understanding of society. The
reemergence of economic analysis in liberal theory brought to the fore a
thoroughgoing methodological individualism. Writing in the early 1960s,
James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock adamantly defended the
individualistic postulate against all forms of organicism: This
[organicist] approach or theory of the collectivity.is essentially opposed
to the Western philosophical tradition in which the human individual is the
primary philosophical entity (1965: 11-12). Human beings, insisted
Buchanan and Tullock, are the only real choosers and decision-makers,
and their preferences determine both public and private actions. The
renascent individualism of late-twentieth century liberalism was closely
bound up with the induction of Hobbes as a member of the liberal
pantheon. Hobbes's relentlessly individualistic account of society, and the
manner in which his analysis of the state of nature lent itself to gametheoretical modeling, yielded a highly individualist, formal analysis of the
liberal state and liberal morality.
Of course, as is widely known, the last twenty-five years have witnessed a
renewed interest in collectivist analyses of liberal society though the
term collectivist is abjured in favor of communitarian. Writing in 1985,
Amy Gutmann observed that we are witnessing a revival of
communitarian criticisms of liberal political theory. Like the critics of the

18

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

1960s, those of the 1980s fault liberalism for being mistakenly and
irreparably individualistic (1985: 308). Starting with Michael Sandel's
(1982) famous criticism of Rawls, a number of critics charged that
liberalism was necessarily premised on an abstract conception of
individual selves as pure choosers, whose commitments, values and
concerns are possessions of the self, but never constitute the self.
Although the now famous, not to say infamous, liberal-communitarian
debate ultimately involved wide-ranging moral, political and sociological
disputes about the nature of communities, and the rights and
responsibilities of their members, the heart of the debate was about the
nature of liberal selves. For Sandel the flaw at the heart of Rawls's
liberalism was its implausibly abstract theory of the self, the pure
autonomous chooser. Rawls, he charges, ultimately assumes that it makes
sense to identify us with a pure capacity for choice, and that such pure
choosers might reject any or all of their attachments and values and yet
retain their identity.
From the mid-1980s onwards various liberals sought to show how
liberalism may consistently advocate a theory of the self which finds room
for cultural membership and other non-chosen attachments and
commitments which at least partially constitute the self (Kymlicka, 1989).
Much of liberal theory has became focused on the issue as to how we can
be social creatures, members of cultures and raised in various traditions,
while also being autonomous choosers who employ our liberty to
construct lives of our own.

4. The Debate About The Reach of Liberalism


4.1 Is Liberalism Justified in All Political Communities?
In On Liberty Mill argued that Liberty, as a principle, has no application
to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become

Spring 2015 Edition

19

Liberalism

capable of being improved by free and equal discussion (1963, vol. 18:
224). Thus Despotism is a legitimate form of government in dealing with
barbarians, provided the end be their improvement (1963, vol. 18:
224). This passage infused with the spirit of nineteenth century
imperialism (and perhaps, as some maintain, latent racism) is often
ignored by defenders of Mill as an embarrassment (Parekh, 1994; Parekh,
1995; Mehta, 1999; Pitts, 2005).This is not to say that such Millian
passages are without a defense. Inder Marawah, for example, provides a
thoughtful and nuanced defense (2011). Nevertheless, it raises a question
that still divides liberals: are liberal political principles justified for all
political communities? In The Law of Peoples Rawls argues that they are
not. According to Rawls there can be a decent hierarchical society which
is not based on the liberal conception of all persons as free and equal, but
instead views persons as responsible and cooperating members of their
respective groups but not inherently equal (1999a: 66). Given this, the
full liberal conception of justice cannot be constructed out of shared ideas
of this people, though basic human rights, implicit in the very idea of a
social cooperative structure, apply to all peoples. David Miller (2002)
develops a different defense of this anti-universalistic position, while those
such as Thomas Pogge (2002: ch. 4) and Martha Nussbaum (2002) reject
Rawls's position, instead advocating versions of moral universalism: they
claim that liberal moral principles apply to all states.

4.2 Is Liberalism a Cosmopolitan or a State-centered Theory?


The debate about whether liberal principles apply to all political
communities should not be confused with the debate as to whether
liberalism is a state-centered theory, or whether, at least ideally, it is a
cosmopolitan political theory for the community of all humankind.
Immanuel Kant a moral universalist if ever there was one argued
that all states should respect the dignity of their citizens as free and equal
persons, yet denied that humanity forms one political community. Thus he

20

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

rejected the ideal of a universal cosmopolitan liberal political community


in favor of a world of states, all with internally just constitutions, and
united in a confederation to assure peace (1970 [1795]).
On a classical liberal theory, the difference between a world of liberal
communities and a world liberal community is not of fundamental
importance. Since the aim of government in a community is to assure the
basic liberty and property rights of its citizens, borders are not of great
moral significance in classical liberalism (Lomasky, 2007; but cf. Pogge,
2002: ch. 2). In contrast under the new liberalism, which stresses
redistributive programs to achieve social justice, it matters a great deal
who is included within the political or moral community. If liberal
principles require significant redistribution, then it is crucially important
whether these principles apply only within particular communities, or
whether their reach is global. Thus a fundamental debate between Rawls
and many of his followers is whether the difference principle should only
be applied within a liberal state such as the United States (where the least
well off are the least well off Americans), or whether it should be applied
globally (where the least well off are the least well off in the world)
(Rawls, 1999a: 113ff; Beitz, 1973: 143ff; Pogge, 1989: Part Three).

4.3 Liberal Interaction with Non-Liberal Groups: International


Liberal political theory also fractures concerning the appropriate response
to groups (cultural, religious, etc.) which endorse illiberal policies and
values. These groups may deny education to some of their members,
advocate female genital mutilation, restrict religious freedom, maintain an
inequitable caste system, and so on. When, if ever, is it reasonable for a
liberal group to interfere with the internal governance of an illiberal
group?
Suppose first that the illiberal group is another political community or

Spring 2015 Edition

21

Liberalism

state. Can liberals intervene in the affairs of non-liberal states? Mill


provides a complicated answer in his 1859 essay A Few Words on NonIntervention. Reiterating his claim from On Liberty that civilized and
non-civilized countries are to be treated differently, he insists that
barbarians have no rights as a nation, except a right to such treatment as
may, at the earliest possible period, fit them for becoming one. The only
moral laws for the relation between a civilized and a barbarous
government, are the universal rules of morality between man and man
(1963, vol. 21: 119). Although this strikes us today as simply a case for an
objectionable paternalistic imperialism (and it certainly was such a case),
Mill's argument for the conclusion is more complex, including a claim
that, since international morality depends on reciprocity, barbarous
governments that cannot be counted on to engage in reciprocal behavior
have no rights qua governments. In any event, when Mill turns to
interventions among civilized peoples he develops an altogether more
sophisticated account as to when one state can intervene in the affairs of
another to protect liberal principles. Here Mill is generally against
intervention. The reason is, that there can seldom be anything
approaching to assurance that intervention, even if successful, would be
for the good of the people themselves. The only test possessing any real
value, of a people's having become fit for popular institutions, is that they,
or a sufficient proportion of them to prevail in the contest, are willing to
brave labour and danger for their liberation (1963, vol. 21: 122).
In addition to questions of efficacy, to the extent that peoples or groups
have rights to collective self-determination, intervention by a liberal group
to induce a non-liberal community to adopt liberal principles will be
morally objectionable. As with individuals, liberals may think that peoples
or groups have freedom to make mistakes in managing their collective
affairs. If people's self-conceptions are based on their participation in such
groups, even those whose liberties are denied may object to, and perhaps
in some way harmed by, the imposition of liberal principles (Margalit and

22

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

Raz, 1990; Tamir, 1993). Thus rather than proposing a doctrine of


intervention many liberals propose various principles of toleration which
specify to what extent liberals must tolerate non-liberal peoples and
cultures. As is usual, Rawls's discussion is subtle and enlightening. In his
account of the foreign affairs of liberal peoples, Rawls argues that liberal
peoples must distinguish decent non-liberal societies from outlaw and
other states; the former have a claim on liberal peoples to tolerance while
the latter do not (1999a: 59-61). Decent peoples, argues Rawls, simply do
not tolerate outlaw states which ignore human rights: such states may be
subject to forceful sanctions and even to intervention (1999a: 81). In
contrast, Rawls insists that liberal peoples must try to encourage [nonliberal] decent peoples and not frustrate their vitality by coercively
insisting that all societies be liberal (1999a: 62). Chandran Kukathas
(2003) whose liberalism derives from the classical tradition is
inclined to almost complete toleration of non-liberal peoples, with the
proviso that there must be exit rights.

4.4 Liberal Interaction with Non-Liberal Groups: Domestic


The status of non-liberal groups within liberal societies has increasingly
become a subject of debate, especially with respect to some citizens of
faith. We should distinguish two questions: (i) to what extent should nonliberal cultural and religious communities be exempt from the
requirements of the liberal state? and, (ii) to what extent can they be
allowed to participate in decision-making in the liberal state?
Turning to (i), liberalism has a long history of seeking to accommodate
religious groups that have deep objections to certain public policies, such
as the Quakers, Mennonites or Sikhs. The most difficult issues in this
regard arise in relation to children and education (see Galston, 2003;
Fowler, 2010; Andersson, 2011) Mill, for example, writes:

Spring 2015 Edition

23

Liberalism

Consider the case of education. Is it not almost a self-evident


axiom, that the State should require and compel the education, up
to a certain standard, of every human being who is born its citizen?
Yet who is there that is not afraid to recognize and assert this
truth? Hardly any one indeed will deny that it is one of the most
sacred duties of the parents (or, as law and usage now stand, the
father), after summoning a human being into the world, to give to
that being an education fitting him to perform his part well in life
towards others and towards himself . that to bring a child into
existence without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide
food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind, is a
moral crime, both against the unfortunate offspring and against
society . (1963, vol. 18)
Over the last thirty years, there has been a particular case that is at the core
of this debate Wisconsin vs. Yoder: [406 U.S. 205 (1972)]. In this case,
the United States Supreme Court upheld the right of Amish parents to
avoid compulsory schooling laws and remove their children from school at
the age of 14 thus, according to the Amish, avoiding secular influences
that might undermine the traditional Amish way of life. Because cultural
and religious communities raise and educate children, they cannot be seen
as purely voluntary opt-outs from the liberal state: they exercise coercive
power over children, and so basic liberal principles about protecting the
innocent from unjustified coercion come into play. Some have maintained
that liberal principles require that the state should intervene (against
groups like the Amish) in order to [1] provide the children with an
effective right of exit that would otherwise be denied via a lack of
education (Okin, 2002), [2] to protect the children's right to an
autonomous and open future (Feinberg, 1980) and/or [3] to insure that
children will have the cognitive tools to prepare them for their future role
as citizens (Galston, 1995: p. 529; Macedo, 1995: pp. 285-6). Other liberal
theorists, on the other hand, have argued that the state should not intervene

24

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

because it might undermine the inculcation of certain values that are


necessary for the continued existence of certain comprehensive doctrines
(Galston, 1995: p. 533; Stolzenberg, 1993: pp. 582-3). Moreover, some
such as Harry Brighouse (1998) have argued that the inculcation of liberal
values through compulsory education might undermine the legitimacy of
liberal states because children would not (due to possible indoctrination)
be free to consent to such institutions.
Question (ii) the extent to which non-liberal beliefs and values may be
employed in liberal political discussion has become the subject of
sustained debate in the years following Rawls's Political Liberalism.
According to Rawls's liberalism and what we might call public reason
liberalism more generally because our societies are characterized by
reasonable pluralism, coercion cannot be justified on the basis of
comprehensive moral or religious systems of belief. But many friends of
religion (e.g., Eberle, 2002; Perry, 1993) argue that this is objectionably
exclusionary: conscientious believers are barred from voting on their
deepest convictions. Again liberals diverge in their responses. Some such
as Stephen Macedo take a pretty hard-nosed attitude: if some people
feel silenced or marginalized by the fact that some of us believe that it
is wrong to shape basic liberties on the basis of religious or metaphysical
claims, I can only say grow up! (2000: 35). Rawls, in contrast, seeks to
be more accommodating, allowing that arguments based on religious
comprehensive doctrines may enter into liberal politics on issues of basic
justice provided that, in due course, we give properly public reasons to
support the principles and policies that our comprehensive doctrine is said
to support (1999a: 144). Thus Rawls allows the legitimacy of religiousbased arguments against slavery and in favor of the United States civil
rights movement, because ultimately such arguments were supported by
public reasons. Others (e.g., Greenawalt, 1995) hold that even this is too
restrictive: it is difficult for liberals to justify a moral prohibition on a
religious citizen from voicing her view in liberal political debate. Gaus

Spring 2015 Edition

25

Liberalism

and Vallier seek to ameliorate such tensions, in part, by acknowledging an


asymmetry between the reasons to justify to another a law and the
reasons to reject a law (2009: 54). They argue that although a secular
rationale is necessary in our society for a publicly justified law, it can be
defeated by a reasonable religious conviction without secular backing
(2009: 63). Thus, citizens of faith would be able to preserve their religious
integrity, all the while remaining unable to coerce others via unshared
religious reasons.

5. Conclusion
Given that liberalism fractures on so many issues the nature of liberty,
the place of property and democracy in a just society, the
comprehensiveness and the reach of the liberal ideal one might wonder
whether there is any point in talking of liberalism at all. It is not, though,
an unimportant or trivial thing that all these theories take liberty to be the
grounding political value. Radical democrats assert the overriding value of
equality, communitarians maintain that the demands of belongingness
trump freedom, and conservatives complain that the liberal devotion to
freedom undermines traditional values and virtues and so social order
itself. Intramural disputes aside, liberals join in rejecting these conceptions
of political right.

Bibliography
Andersson, Emil (2011). Political Liberalism and the Interests of
Children: A Reply to Timothy Michael Fowler, Res Publica, 17:
29196.
Beitz, Charles (1997). Political Theory and International Relations,
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Benn, Stanley I. (1988). A Theory of Freedom, Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.

26

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

Bentham, Jeremy (1952 [1795]). Manual of Political Economy in Jeremy


Bentham's Economic Writings W. Stark (ed.), London: Allen and
Unwin.
Bentham, Jeremy (1970 [1823]). Introduction to the Principles of Morals
and Legislation, J. H. Burns and H. L. A. Hart (eds.), London:
Athlone Press.
Berlin, Isaiah (1969). Two Concepts of Liberty, in his Four Essays on
Liberty, Oxford: Oxford University Press: 118-72.
Beveridge, William (1944). Full Employment in a Free Society, London:
Allen and Unwin.
Bird, Colin (1999). The Myth of Liberal Individualism, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Brighouse, Harry (1998). Civic Education and Liberal Legitimacy,
Ethics, 108: 719-45.
Bosanquet, Bernard (2001 [1923]). Philosophical Theory of the State in
Philosophical Theory of the State and Related Essays, Gerald F. Gaus
and William Sweet (eds.), Indianapolis: St. Augustine Press.
Buchanan James M. and Gordon Tullock (1966). The Calculus of
Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, Ann
Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Chapman, John W. (1977). Toward a General Theory of Human Nature
and Dynamics, in NOMOS XVII: Human Nature in Politics, J.
Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman (eds.), New York: New York
University Press: 292-319.
Christman, John and Joel Anderson, eds. (2005). Autonomy and
Challenges to Liberalism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cranston, Maurice (1967). Liberalism, in The Encyclopedia of
Philosophy, Paul Edwards (ed.), New York: Macmillan and the Free
Press: 458-461.
Courtland, Shane D. (2007). Public Reason and the Hobbesian Dilemma,
Hobbes Studies, 20: 63-92.

Spring 2015 Edition

27

Liberalism

Dagger, Richard (1997). Civic Virtue: Rights, Citizenship and Republican


Liberalism, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Dewey, John (1929). Characters and Events, Joseph Ratner (ed.), New
York: Henry Holt.
Dworkin, Gerald (1988). The Theory and Practice of Autonomy,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dworkin, Ronald (2000). Sovereign Virtue, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Eberle, Christopher J. (2002). Religious Conviction in Liberal Politics,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Ely, James W. Jr (1992). The Guardian of Every Other Right: A
Constitutional History of Property Rights, New York: Oxford
University Press.
Feinberg, Joel (1980). The Child's Right to an Open Future, in Whose
Child? Children's Rights, Parental Authority, and State Power,
William Aiken and Hugh LaFollette (eds.), Totowa: Rowman &
Littlefield; reprinted in Feinberg (1992), Freedom & Fulfillment,
Princeton: Princeton University Press: 76-97.
Feinberg, Joel (1984). Harm to Others, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Fowler, Timothy Michael (2010). The Problems of Liberal Neutrality in
Upbringing,, Res Publica, 16: 36781.
Freeden, Michael (1978). The New Liberalism: An Ideology of Social
Reform, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Galston, William (1980). Justice and the Human Good, Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Galston, William (1995). Two Concepts of Liberalism, Ethics, 105:
516-34.
Galston, William (2003). Parents, Governments and Children: Authority
Over Education in the Liberal Democratic State, in NOMOS XLIV:
Child, Family and The State, Stephen Macedo and Iris Marion Young
(eds.), New York: New York University Press: 211-233.

28

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

Gaus, Gerald F. (1983a). The Modern Liberal Theory of Man, New York:
St. Martin's Press.
Gaus, Gerald F. (1983b). Public and Private Interests in Liberal Political
Economy, Old and New, in Public and Private in Social Life, S.I.
Benn and G.F. Gaus (eds.), New York: St. Martin's Press: 183-221.
Gaus, Gerald F. (1994). Property, Rights, and Freedom, Social
Philosophy and Policy, 11: 209-40.
Gaus, Gerald F. (1996). Justificatory Liberalism: An Essay on
Epistemology and Political Theory, New York: Oxford University
Press.
Gaus, Gerald F. (2000). Political Concepts and Political Theories,
Boulder, CO: Westview.
Gaus, Gerald F. (2003a). Contemporary Theories of Liberalism: Public
Reason as a Post-Enlightenment Project, London: Sage Publications
Ltd.
Gaus, Gerald F. (2003b). Backwards into the Future: Neorepublicanism
as a Postsocialist Critique of Market Society,, Social Philosophy &
Policy, 20: 59-92.
Gaus, Gerald F. (2004). The Diversity of Comprehensive Liberalisms, in
The Handbook of Political Theory, Gerald F. Gaus and Chandran
Kukathas (eds.), London: Sage, 100-114.
Gaus, Gerald F. (2012). Hobbess Challenge to Public Reason
Liberalism, in Hobbes Today: Insights for the 21st Century, S.A.
Lloyd (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 15577.
Gaus, Gerald F., and Kevin Vallier (2009), The Roles of Religious
Conviction in a Publicly Justified Polity: The Implications of
Convergence, Asymmetry, and Political Institutions, Philosophy &
Social Criticism, 35(1): 5176.
Gauthier, David (1986). Morals By Agreement, Oxford: Oxford University
Press.
Gauthier, David (1995). Public Reason, Social Philosophy and Policy,

Spring 2015 Edition

29

Liberalism

12: 19-42.
Ghosh, Eric (2008). From Republican to Liberal Liberty, History of
Political Thought, 29: 132-67.
Gray, John (2006). Isiah Berlin, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Green, Thomas Hill (1986 [1895]). Lectures on the Principles of Political
Obligation and Other Essays, Paul Harris and John Morrow (eds.),
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Greenawalt, Kent (1995). Private Consciences and Public Reasons, New
York: Oxford University Press.
Gutmann, Amy (1985). Communitarian Critics of Liberalism,,
Philosophy & Public Affairs, 14: 308-22.
Hampton, Jean (1986). Hobbes and the Social Contract Tradition,
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Hampton, Jean (1989) Should Political Philosophy by Done without
Metaphysics? Ethics, 99: 791-814.
Hayek, F.A. (1960). The Constitution of Liberty, Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Hayek, F.A. (1976). The Mirage of Social Justice, Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Hayek, F.A. (1978). Liberalism, in his New Studies in Philosophy,
Politics, Economics and the History of Ideas, London: Routledge and
Kegan Paul.
Hobbes, Thomas (1948 [1651]). Leviathan, Michael Oakeshott, ed.
Oxford: Blackwell.
Hobhouse, L. T. (1918). The Metaphysical Theory of the State, London:
Allen and Unwin.
Hobson, J.A. (1922). The Economics of Unemployment, London: Allen
and Unwin.
Kant, Immanuel, (1965 [1797]). The Metaphysical Elements of Justice,
John Ladd (trans.), Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill.
Kant, Immanuel, (1970 [1795]) Perpetual Peace, in Kant's Political

30

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

Writings, Hans Reiss (ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Kavka, Gregory S. (1986). Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory,
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Keynes, John Maynard (1972). The End of Laissez-Faire,in his Essays
in Persuasion, London: Macmillan.
Keynes, John Maynard (1973 [1936]). The General Theory of
Employment, Interest and Money, London and Cambridge:
Macmillan and Cambridge University Press.
Kukathas, Chandran (2003). The Liberal Archipelago, Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Kymlicka, Will (1989). Liberalism, Community and Culture, Oxford:
Clarendon Press.
Larmore, Charles (1996). The Morals of Modernity, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Larmore, Charles (2001). A Critique of Philip Pettit's Republicanism,,
Nos (Supplement): 229-243.
Larmore, Charles (2004). Liberal and Republican Conceptions qof
Freedom, in Republicanism: History, Theory, and Practice, D.
Weinstock and C. Nadeau (eds.), London: Frank Cass, 96-119.
Locke, John (1960 [1689]). The Second Treatise of Government in Two
Treatises of Government, Peter Laslett, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 283-446.
Locke, John (1975 [1706]). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,
Peter H. Nidditch (ed.), Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Lomasky, Loren E. (1987). Persons, Rights, and the Moral Community,
New York: Oxford University Press.
Lomasky, Loren E. (2007). Liberalism Without Borders, in Liberalism:
Old and New, Ellen Frankel Paul, Fred D. Miller and Jeffrey Paul
(eds.), New York: Cambridge University Press, 206-233
Macedo, Stephen (1995). Liberal Civic Education and Religious
Fundamentalism: The Case of God v. John Rawls? Ethics, 105: 468-

Spring 2015 Edition

31

Liberalism

96.
Machiavelli, Niccolo (1950 [1513]). The Prince And the Discourses, L.
Ricci and C.E. Detmold (trans.), New York: Random House, Inc.
Mack, Eric and Gerald F. Gaus. (2004) Classical Liberalism and
Libertarianism: The Liberty Tradition, in The Handbook of Political
Theory, Gerald F. Gaus and Chandran Kukathas (eds.), London:
Sage, 115-130.
Margalit, Avishai, and Joseph Raz (1990). National Self-Determination,
Journal of Philosophy, 87: 439-61.
Marwah, Inder (2011). Complicating Barbarism and Civilization: Mills
Complex Sociology of Human Development, History of Political
Thought, 32: 34566.
Mehta, Uday Singh (1999). Liberalism and Empire: A Study in
Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought, Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Mill, John Stuart (1963). Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, J. M.
Robson (ed.), Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Miller, David (2002). Two Ways to Think about Justice, Politics,
Philosophy and Economics, 1: 5-28.
Mummery A. F. and J. A. Hobson (1956). The Physiology of Industry,
New York: Kelly and Millman.
Nozick, Robert. (1974). Anarchy, State and Utopia, New York: Basic
Books.
Nussbaum, Martha (2002). Women and Law of Peoples, Politics,
Philosophy and Economics, 1: 283-306.
Okin, Susan (2002). Mistresses of Their Own Destiny: Group Rights,
Gender, and Realistic Rights of Exit, Ethics, 112: 205-30.
Parekh, Bhikhu (1994). Decolonizing Liberalism,, in The End of
Isms?: Reflections on the Fate of Ideological Politics after
Communisms Collapse, Alexander Shtromas (ed.), Cambridge, MA:
Wiley-Blackwell: 85-103.

32

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

Parekh, Bhikhu (1995). Liberalism and Colonialism: A Critique of Locke


and Mill, in The Decolonization of Imagination: Culture, Knowledge
and Power, Jan Nederveen Pieterse and Bhikhu Parekh (eds.),
London: Zed Books: 81-98.
Paul, Ellen Frankel, Fred D. Miller and Jeffrey Paul, eds. (2007).
Liberalism: Old and New, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Perry, Michael J. (1993). Religious Morality and Political Choice: Further
Thoughts and Second Thoughts on Love and Power, San
Diego Law Review, 30 (Fall): 703-727.
Pettit, Philip (1996). Freedom as Antipower, Ethics, 106: 576-604.
Pettit, Philip (1997). Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and
Government, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Pitts, Jennifer (2005). A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism
in Britain and France, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Pogge, Thomas W. (1989). Realizing Rawls, Ithaca: Cornell University
Press.
Pogge, Thomas W. (2002). World Poverty and Human Rights, Cambridge,
UK: Polity Press.
Popper, Karl (1945). The Open Society and its Enemies, London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Rawls, John (1996). Political Liberalism, New York: Columbia University
Press.
Rawls, John (1999a). Law of Peoples, Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press.
Rawls, John (1999b). A Theory of Justice, revised edition. Cambridge,
MA: Harvard University Press.
Rawls, John (2001). Justice as Fairness: A Restatement, Erin Kelly, ed.
New York: Columbia University Press.
Raz, Joseph (1986). The Morality of Freedom, Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Raz, Joseph (1990). Facing Diversity: The Case of Epistemic
Abstinence, Philosophy & Public Affairs, 19: 3-46.

Spring 2015 Edition

33

Liberalism

Reiman, Jeffrey (1990). Justice and Modern Moral Philosophy, New


Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Ridge, Michael (1998). Hobbesian Public Reason, Ethics, 108: 538-68.
Ritchie, D.G. (1896). Principles of State Interference, 2nd edn., London:
Swan Sonnenschein.
Robbins, L. (1961). The Theory of Economic Policy in English Classical
Political Economy, London: Macmillan.
Rogers, Melvin (2008). Republican Confusion and Liberal Clarification,
Philosophy & Social Criticism, 34: 799-824.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1973 [1762]). The Social Contract and
Discourses, G.D.H. Cole (trans.), New York: Dutton.
Sandel, Michael. (1982) Liberalism and the Limits of Justice, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Scanlon, Thomas (1982) Contractualism and Utilitarianism, in
Utilitarianism and Beyond, Amartya Sen and Bernard Williams
(eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 103-28.
Scanlon, T.M. (1998) What We Owe Each Other, Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press.
Spencer, William (1995 [1851]). Social Statics, New York: Robert
Schalkenback Foundation.
Skinner, Quentin (1998). Liberty Before Liberalism, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Spector, Horacio (1992). Autonomy and Rights: The Moral Foundations of
Liberalism, Oxford: Clarendon.
Steiner, Hillel (1994). An Essay on Rights, Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
Stolzenberg, Nomi (1993). He Drew a Circle That Shut Me Out:
Assimilation, Indoctrination, and the Paradox of Liberal Education,
Harvard Law Review, 106: 581-667.
Swaine, Lucas (2006). The Liberal Conscience, New York: Columbia
University Press.
Tamir, Yael (1993). Liberal Nationalism, Princeton: Princeton University

34

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

Press.
Tawney, R. H. (1931). Equality, New York: Harcourt. Brace.
Taylor, Charles (1979). What's Wrong with Negative Liberty, in The
Idea of Freedom, A. Ryan (ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press:
175-93.
Taylor, Charles (1992). Multiculturalism and The Politics of Recognition,
Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Viroli, Maurizio (2002). Republicanism, A. Shugaar (trans.), New York:
Hill and Wang.
von Humboldt, Wilhelm (1993 [1854]). The Limits of State Action,
Indianapolis: Liberty Press.
Wall, Steven (1998). Liberalism, Perfectionism and Restraint, Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Academic Tools
How to cite this entry.
Preview the PDF version of this entry at the Friends of the SEP
Society.
Look up this entry topic at the Indiana Philosophy Ontology
Project (InPhO).
Enhanced bibliography for this entry at PhilPapers, with links
to its database.

Other Internet Resources


Liberty Fund Online Library of Liberty

Related Entries
Berlin, Isaiah | Bosanquet, Bernard | communitarianism | contractarianism

Spring 2015 Edition

35

Liberalism

| contractualism | cosmopolitanism | enlightenment | Green, Thomas Hill |


Hobbes, Thomas: moral and political philosophy | justice: distributive |
justice: international distributive | justification, political: public | Kant,
Immanuel: social and political philosophy | libertarianism | liberty:
positive and negative | Locke, John: political philosophy | markets | Mill,
John Stuart: moral and political philosophy | multiculturalism |
perfectionism, in moral and political philosophy | political legitimacy |
property and ownership | public reason | Rawls, John | religion and
political theory | republicanism | Rousseau, Jean Jacques | toleration
Copyright 2015 by the authors
Gerald Gaus and Shane D. Courtland

36

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy