Conceptions of the Good and the Ubiquity of Power

Social Philosophy Today 26:83-90 (2010)
Abstract
According to John Rawls, the liberalism of John Stuart Mill is “comprehensive” and not “political” because it promotes the idea of individuality as a more or less universal conception of the good. Rawls’s political liberalism, in contrast, does not promote any one particular conception of the good over others. Instead, it aims to guarantee for citizens the capacity for a conception of the good. I argue, however, that Mill’s liberalism is “comprehensive” because power is ubiquitous, i.e., because there are social and “nonpolitical” forms of power that political liberalism is not equipped to deal with. It is impossible to guarantee the capacity fora conception of the good without providing a point of resistance to the social and nonpolitical deployment of power. Thus, if liberalism is going to be able to guarantee the capacity for a conception of the good, it must become “political” in aim but “comprehensive” in scope
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