2010년 12월 30일 목요일

Some readings in Liberalism

자료 1: Political Philosophy (출처: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

a. Liberalism

The term “liberalism” conveys two distinct positions in political philosophy, the one a pro-individualist theory of people and government, the second a pro-statist or what is better termed a “social democratic” conception. Students of political philosophy ought to be aware of the two schools of thought that reside under the same banner to avoid philosophical confusions that can be resolved by a clarification of terms. The “Great Switch,” as cultural historian Jacques Barzun notes, took place in the late Nineteenth Century, a switch which was the product of shifting the political ground towards socialist or social democratic policies under the banner of liberal parties and politics.

Etymologically, the former is the sounder description since liberalism is derived from the word “liberty,” that is, freedom and toleration rather than notions of justice and intervention that took on board in the Twentieth Century. Yet, the pro-statist connotation pervades modern thinking so much so that it is difficult to separate its notions from the previous meanings without re-classifying one or the other. The former is often referred to as ‘classical liberalism’ leaving the latter unchanged or adapted to “social democratic liberalism,” which is a rather confusing mouthful; “modern liberalism” is an easier term to wield and shall be used unless the emphasis is laid upon the socialist leanings of such modern liberals.

In the broadest, presently popularly accepted term the modern liberal accepts rights against the person and rights to entitlements such as health care and education. The two positions do not sit well philosophically however, for they produce a host of potential and recurrent inconsistencies and contradictions that can only be resolved by stretching the definition of freedom to include the freedom to succeed (or freedom to resources) rather than the freedom to try. This sometimes generates difficult and perhaps insurmountable problems for those who seek to merge the classical and modern doctrines; nonetheless, the (modern) liberal project is actively pursued by modern thinkers such as J.S. Mill, John Rawls, Will Kymlicka, Ronald Dworkin and others. For these writers, the historical emphasis on toleration, plurality and justice underscore their work; they differ on their interpretation of toleration, public and private roles, and the perceived need for opportunities to be created or not. Some modern liberals, however, do try to remove themselves from classical liberalism (for example, Kymlicka) and therefore become more like ‘social democrats’, that is, humanitarians of a socialist bent who assert the primacy of minorities and even individuals to partake freely in the democratic processes and political dialogues, or whose emphasis on equality demands an active and interventionist state that classical liberals would reject.

Dworkin, for example, claims justice is the essential motif of liberalism and that the state’s duty is to ensure a just and fair opportunity for all to compete and flourish in a civil society. That may require active state intervention in some areas – areas that classical liberals would reject as being inadmissible in a free economy. Dworkin’s position emanates from Aristotle’s ethical argument that for a person to pursue the good life he requires a certain standard of living. Poverty is not conducive to pursuing the contemplative life, hence many modern liberals are attracted to redistributive or welfare policies. Such fairness in opportunity to create equal opportunities underpins John Stuart Mill’s liberalism for example. However, the modern liberal’s emphasis on equality is criticized by classical liberals who argue that people are neither born equal nor can be made equal: talents (and motivation) are distributed unequally across a population, which means that attempts to reduce men and women to the same status will imply a reduction in the ability (or freedom) of the more talented to act and to strive for their own progression. Similarly, the modern liberal’s criticism of inherited wealth is chastised as being misplaced: although the policy connects well to the desire to ensure an equal start for all, not all parents’ gifts to their children are monetary in nature. Indeed, some, following Andrew Carnegie’s self-help philosophy, may contend that monetary inheritances can be counter-productive, fostering habits of dependency.

Both modern and classical liberals may refer to the theory of a social contract to justify either their emphasis on the free realm of the individual or the fostering of those conditions liberals in general deem necessary for human flourishing. Classical liberals derive their theory of the social contract initially from Thomas Hobbes’s model (in Leviathan) in which individuals in a state of nature would come together to form a society. Liberals of both variations have never believed such a contract ever took place, but use the model to assess the present status of society according to criteria they believe the contract should include. Hobbes leaned towards a more authoritarian version of the contract in which individuals give up all political rights (except that of self-preservation which he sees as a natural, inalienable right) to the sovereign political body whose primary duty is to ensure the peace; John Locke leaned towards a more limited government (but one that could justly take the alienable life of an aggressor); Rousseau sought a thoroughly democratic vision of the social contract; and more recently Rawls has entertained what rights and entitlements a social contract committee would allot themselves if they had no knowledge and hence prejudices of each other.

Both classical and modern liberals agree that the government has a strict duty towards impartiality and hence to treating people equally, and that it should also be neutral in its evaluation of what the good life is. This neutrality is criticized by non-liberals who claim that the assumed neutrality is in fact a reflection of a specific vision of human nature or progress, and although critics disagree what that vision may entail, their claim prompts liberals to justify the underlying assumption that promotes them to accept such issues as: equal treatment by the law and by the state; liberty to pursue one’s life as one sees fit; the right to private property, and so on.

Nonetheless, broad liberalism accepts and emphasizes that people ought to be tolerant towards their fellow men and women. The modern importance of toleration stems from the Renaissance and post-Reformation reactions to the division in the Church and the ensuing persecutions against heterodoxy. Freedom in religious belief extends to other realms of human activity that do not negatively affect neighbors, for example in sexual or romantic activities, the consumption of narcotics, and the perusal of pornography. But what is philosophically more important is that the liberal doctrine of toleration permits the acceptance of errors – that in pursuing the ethical good life and hence the appropriate political life, people may make mistakes and should be permitted to learn and adapt as they see fit; or, alternatively, that people have a right to live in ignorance or to pursue knowledge as they think best. This is held in common with political conservatives who are somewhat more pessimistic and skeptical of our abilities than most liberals. Classical and modern liberals do unite in expressing a skepticism towards experts knowing what is in the best interest of others, and thus liberals tend to reject any interference in people’s lives as unjustifiable and, from utilitarian point of view, counter-productive. Life, for the liberal, should be led from the inside (self-oriented) rather than outside (other- imposed); but modern liberals add that individuals ought to be provided with the resources to ensure that they can live the good life as they see fit. The classical liberal retort is who will provide those resources and to what age should people be deemed incapable of learning or striving by themselves?

Despite such differences over policy, liberals – of both the social democratic and classical strain – predominantly hold an optimistic view of human nature. In modern philosophy the position is derived from Locke’s psychological theory from An Essay on Human Understanding that people are born without innate ideas and hence his environment, upbringing, and experiences fashion him: for classical liberals this implies a thorough rejection of inherited elitism and hence of supposed natural political hierarchies in which power resided with dynasties; for modern liberals this implies the potential for forging appropriate conditions for any individual to gain a proper education and opportunities.

Liberals applaud those institutions that reason sustains as being conducive to human freedoms: classical liberals emphasizing those institutions that protect the negative freedoms (rights against aggression and theft) and social democratic liberals the positive freedoms (rights to a certain standard of living). If an institution is lacking according to a critical and rational analysis – failing in its duty to uphold a certain liberal value – then it is to be reorganized for the empowerment of humanity. At this juncture, liberals also divide between deontological (Rawls) and utilitarian theorists (Mill). Most classical liberals ascribe to a general form of utilitarianism in which social institutions are to be reorganized along lines of benefiting the greatest number. This attracts criticism from conservatives and deontologists – according to what ends? – according to whose analysis? – comprising which people? and so on. Deontologists are not precluded from supporting liberalism (Immanuel Kant is the most influential thinker in that regard), for they hold that the proper society and hence political institutions should generate those rules and institutions that are right in themselves, regardless of the particular presumed ends we are seeking (for example, happiness).

Modern liberals lean towards a more interventionist government, and as such they place more emphasis on the ability of the state to produce the right political sphere for humanity and thusly emphasize reform projects more than classical liberals or conservatives. Peace, to choose one example, could be brought to warring peoples or natives if only they admit to the clearly defined and rational proposals of the liberal creed – that is, they should release themselves from parochial prejudices and superstitions and submit to the cosmopolitanism of liberal toleration and peace. The variants here – as in the host of applied subjects – are broad ranging: some liberals espouse the need to secure peace through the provision of a healthy standard of living (effected by appropriate redistribution policies from rich countries to poor); others promote the free market as a necessary condition for the growth of the so-called “soft morals” of commerce; while others emphasize the need for dialogue and mutual understanding through multi-cultural educational programs. These kind of programs, the modern liberals argue, ideally should be implemented by the world community through international bodies such as the UN rather than unilaterally which could arouse complaints against imperialist motives; however, once the beneficial classical or modern liberal framework is created, the state and political institutions ought to remain ethically neutral and impartial: the state is to be separated from imposing itself on or subsidizing any belief system, cultural rites, forms of behavior or consumption (so long as they do not interfere in the lives of others).

The liberal seeks the best form of government which will permit the individual to pursue life as he or she sees fit within a neutral framework, and it is the possibility of a neutral framework that critics challenge the liberal ideal.


자료 2: Classical Liberalism, Libertarianism, and Individualism, by Jonathan Dolhenty, Ph.D. , (출처: The Radical Academy)


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