Building Common Ground: Going Beyond the Liberal Conundrum

| May 2013
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Liberalism as a political ideology and a philosophical doctrine has championed individual autonomy, social and political equality, and democratic and inclusive political institutions. Consequently, liberalism is known for its commitment to tolerance and value pluralism. Yet liberalism has been critiqued for being insensitive to claims of culture. Worse yet, according to some critics the liberal tradition has provided the rationale for imperialism rooted in the liberal assumptions about reason and historical progress. Though these ironies are a clear source of embarrassment for today’s liberals, liberalism still displays an uneasy commitment to pluralism. Liberals today are more challenged than ever to look at the dynamics of diversity both at home and abroad. To stay viable as a political ideology, liberalism needs to show that it can remain true to its universal norms while being responsive to cultural complexities and differences—both within a pluralistic liberal democracy and in the globalized world. In this essay I claim that liberalism can indeed be both substantive and negotiable as it faces the increasingly vocal challenges of diversity. I will show that the task for liberalism in bridging the liberalism/illiberalism divide lies in locating a false conundrum within liberalism itself.

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Read a response by John R Wallach here.

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Category: Essay, Global Governance, Issue 27.2

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