Between Individual and Community

This paper concerns the relations binding British idealist thought to nineteenth and twentieth century disputes in political philosophy. Two of them in particular are considered: the disputes between liberalism and conservatism, and the disputes between liberals and communitarians. The paper explores the conciliatory, individualist-communitarian character of idealist thought. The first step of the argument is the characterization of liberal-conservative/ liberal-communitarian standpoints. Then some of the fundamental elements of idealist social and political thought are analyzed: the social recognition thesis, the concepts of common good and positive liberty. On this basis, the following features are considered crucial to the acceptance of the liberal- communitarian/conservative character of the idealists' theories: teleology; the metaphysical foundation of politics; contextualism; a tension between ethical relativism and universalism; the criticism of the concept of negative freedom; and individualism
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