The liberal state and the politics of virtue
2000 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
A common belief, shared by liberals and anti-liberals alike, is that the liberalstate should not teach the citizen how to live. Similarly, it is frequently arguedthat liberal theory does not encompass a vision of the virtuous life. In otherwords, liberals and the liberal state are indifferent to the choices that thecitizen makes as long as he or she does no harm. In this work the basis of this belief is challenged.
It is observed, firstly, that the liberal theory is not simply one of rejecting or accepting the notion of virtue. A widely accepted view seems to be that there are many virtues that the citizen should accept for instrumentalreasons only. This is the view accepted by John Rawls. To counter thisposition, the work of Ronald Dworkin is used to exemplify a different view:that virtues are appreciated not merely as means but also as part of a liberalideal of the good life.
Despite these differences both Rawls and Dworkin agree, secondly, that the liberal state should be neutral on questions of virtue and the good life. The claim is that the liberal state should be neutral both in what is done and what is said but that it cannot be neutral in terms of consequences. However, it is argued here that the ideal of the ethically neutral state is not fully justified. Hence, the conclusion of this dissertation is both that virtues does have a place in liberal political thought, and that liberal arguments in defence of the neutral state are less conclusive than is frequently assumed. Liberal values of equality, individual rights, publicity and scepticism do not provide strong objections to the idea of the state as the guardian of virtue. In order to maintain the belief in the neutral state the liberal will consequently have to resort to faith rather than to rational reasoning.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2000. , viii, 357 p.
Political science, virtue, the good life, rights, the neutral state, equality, scepticism, doubt, liberalism
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)
Research subject Political Science
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-725ISBN: 91-7562-108-8OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-725DiVA: diva2:169182
2000-05-18, Brusewitzsalen, Gamla torget 6, Uppsala, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)