Edited by Shaun Young (University of Toronto, St. George)
|Summary||In the latter part of the twentieth century, a number of political theorists began to argue that “traditional” conceptions of liberalism – such as those offered by John Locke, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill – were no longer able to respond satisfactorily to the challenges associated with securing justice amidst the increasing plurality of competing, conflicting, and often incommensurable and irreconcilable beliefs present in contemporary constitutional democracies. Effectively addressing those challenges, it was suggested, would require (1) a redrawing of the boundaries of liberal concern so as to better distinguish between matters of public and private interest – between the political and the nonpolitical; and (2) a focus on securing a consensus on a framework for regulating and mediating only the former. The school of thought associated with this line of argument has come to be known as political liberalism, the most famous (contemporary) proponent of which is John Rawls, author of the architectonic text Political Liberalism. According to Rawls, a purely political liberalism is animated by a “freestanding” conception of justice, one that is not derived from any particular (controversial) metaphysical or epistemological view and limits its application to matters of public import – that is, issues that affect all members of the polity, such as decisions concerning voting and property rights and religious toleration, what Rawls characterizes as “constitutional essentials and issues of basic justice.”|
|Key works||Examples of detailed conceptions of political liberalism are provided in Rawls 1993; Ackerman 1980; Gaus 1996; and Moon 1993.|
|Introductions||Articles that provide an excellent introduction to the concept of political liberalism include Rawls 1985; Larmore 1990; Ackerman 1994; and Shklar 1989.|
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
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