The Idea of a Liberal Theory: A Critique and Reconstruction


Liberalism, the founding philosophy of many constitutional democracies, has been criticized in recent years from both the left and the right for placing too much faith in individual rights and distributive justice. David Johnston argues for a reinterpretation of liberal principles he contends will restore liberalism to a position of intellectual leadership from which it can guide political and social reforms. He begins by surveying the three major contemporary schools of liberal political thought--rights-based, perfectionist, and political liberalism-- and, by weeding out their weaknesses, sketches a new approach he calls humanist liberalism. Valuable not only for its contribution to academic scholarship but also as a means of introducing liberal political thought to serious undergraduate students.--Choice Raises ... a tremendous number of criticisms of the standard accounts of liberal politics. The book is novel, built on solid foundations, [and] very powerful, clever, well thought out.--Alan Ryan, Princeton University This clear and useful new work moves through a swift yet thorough critique of three leading liberal philosophies to reach a sketch of a new, improved theory.--Virginia Quarterly Review

Additional information

Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Princeton, NJ
Publication year:
  • 1994


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