Republican confusion and liberal clarification

Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (7):799-824 (2008)
Proposed as an alternative political philosophy to liberalism, contemporary republicanism articulates a systematic theory of freedom as non-domination. Does it make sense, however, to think about the difference between liberals and republicans along the lines of freedom? This article answers in the negative, maintaining that the distinction is purchased at the cost of misdescribing liberal theory. Focusing on the work of Quentin Skinner and Philip Pettit, I maintain that the mischaracterization takes place at two levels. The first is the link that is drawn between Thomas Hobbes and classical and contemporary liberals. The second has to do with republicans' refusal to acknowledge the normative framework in which liberal freedom takes root and is made politically defensible. This framework, I argue, comprises a constellation of other concepts, such as consent, publicity, and the rule of law that are part and parcel of liberal freedom. Once these features are taken into consideration, what emerges is a view of liberalism that means something less than being free from any and all constraints, but which also means something more than being free from actual interference.
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