Defending Liberalism against the Anomie Challenge

Social Theory and Practice 30 (3):391-427 (2004)
Some claim that liberalism is detrimental to individuals as it encourages anomie which disallows social confirmation of beliefs, without which the individual is left with uncertainty about her judgments that is opposed to firm conviction, and thus, confidence and self-respect. All agree that self-respect is important; disagreement arises about how self-respect is best supported. Both anomie and loss of self-respect are meant to follow from liberalism’s unwillingness to endorse a conception of the Good. This is the “anomie challenge.” I begin by discussing toleration and neutrality and motivating the problem. I then look at responses to the challenge by liberal pluralists and liberalism’s critics. After dismissing both, I argue that the right to choose is the good to be advocated and that it allows for supportive, but voluntary, social structures. I conclude that liberalism better supports self-respect than the alternatives.
Keywords liberalism  communitariamism  anomie  self-respect
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DOI 10.5840/soctheorpract200430319
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