Philosophy in the Contemporary World 4 (1/2):33-40 (1997)
Communitarians have offered a number of arguments against liberalism that connect liberalism to consumerism. In this paper, I examine an argument to this effect developed by Michael Sandel. I argue that Sandel’s argument fails to undenmne liberalism, but that it does demonstrate that many contemporary liberals have placed too great an emphasis on the principle of political neutrality. I argue that liberalism, properly understood, requires both limited neutrality and an emphasis on democratic deliberation. If this is the case, then Sandel’s argument misses its target. However, it does point out how contemporary liberalism needs to be reformed. By emphasizing more local democratic control over the economy, liberalism would not only become more theoretically consistent, but it would distance itself from consumerism.
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