Constitutional Indifferentism and Republican Freedom

Political Theory 38 (6):809-837 (2010)
Neo-Republicans claim that Hobbes’s constitutional indifferentism (the view that we have no profound reason to prefer one constitutional form over another) is driven exclusively by a reductive understanding of liberty as non-interference. This paper argues that constitutional indifferentism is grounded in an analysis of the institutional presuppositions of well-functioning government that does not depend on a conception of liberty as mere non-interference. Hence, indifferentism cannot be refuted simply by pointing out that non-domination is a distinctive ideal of freedom. This result does not suffice to defend the strong version of indifferentism put forward by Hobbes. But it does point to an important limitation of neo-republican constitutional theory: Neo-republicanism will amount to a distinctive paradigm of constitutional thought only if it is understood in a way that conflicts with Hobbes’s understanding of the institutional presuppositions of well-functioning government. It is doubtful that we have good reason to embrace neo-republicanism, so understood.
Keywords Republicanism  Hobbes
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DOI 10.1177/0090591710378585
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