Political Concepts and Political Theories

By Gerald F. Gaus | Go to book overview

ing on the consideration of the concept of equality in Chapter 6, this chapter examined, first, why classical liberals, revisionist liberals, socialists, and conservatives endorse different types of equal treatment; and, second, how their differing interpretations of the concepts of liberty and equality lead them to competing positions on one of the central questions of political theory: do liberty and equality conflict?

Section 7.2 argued that classical liberals, starting from their assumption of equal freedom and the need for impartial political authority, endorse equality before the law and civic equality. They are firm critics of social and economic equality, however, which they see as threats to the core concept of negative liberty. In general, classical liberals insist that the protection of negative liberty is incompatible with the pursuit of most forms of equality. Sections 7.3 and 7.4 considered attempts to reconcile liberty and equality. Section 7.3 analyzed revisionist liberal proposals. I first examined Dworkin's argument that liberalism is based on equality and basic liberties are derived from an ideal of equal treatment, a view of liberalism about which I expressed some skepticism. Closer to the revisionist liberalism of T. H. Green is Hobhouse's claim that true, positive liberty requires a self-determined will directed to the common good, and because the common good requires an equality of rights, true liberty is necessarily consistent with, in fact requires, an equality of rights, including rights to have needs satisfied. In Section 7.4, I considered a positive liberty argument more typical of socialism than revisionist liberalism-- Norman's analysis that equates freedom with the conditions for effective choice. If to be free is to have material, political, and cultural resources necessary for effective choice, and if a cooperative society requires equality of material, political, and cultural resources, equal liberty simply is an egalitarian distribution of resources. Finally, Section 7.5 examined conservative critiques of both socialist and liberal notions of equality.


Notes
1.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, Maurice Cranston, trans. ( London: Penguin Books, 1968 [ 1762]), Book 2, chap. 11. Emphasis in original.
2.
J. Roland Pennock, Democratic Political Theory ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), p. 16.
3.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time ( London: Hollis and Carter, 1952).
4.
See Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction ( Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), p. 5.
5.
John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, in Peter Laslett, ed., Two Treatises of Government ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960), sect. 4.

-179-

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