Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought

Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought

Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought

Boundaries and Allegiances: Problems of Justice and Responsibility in Liberal Thought

Synopsis

This book, a collection of eleven essays by one of the most interesting moral philosophers currently writing, is written from a perspective that is at once sympathetic towards and critical of liberal political philosophy. The essays explore the capacity of liberal thought, and of the moraltraditions on which it draws, to accommodate a variety of challenges posed by the changing circumstances of the modern world. The essays consider how, in an era of rapid globalization, when people's lives are structured by social arrangements and institutions of ever increasing size, complexity, andscope, we can best conceive of the responsibilities of individual agents and the normative significance of people's diverse commitments and allegiances. The volume is linked by common themes including the responsibilities persons have in virtue of belonging to a community, the compatibility of suchobligations with equality, the demands of distributive justice in general, and liberalism's relationship to liberty, community, and equality.

Excerpt

The revival of English-language moral and political philosophy in the late 1960s and early 1970s took place against the backdrop of intense social conflict and rapid social change. The social and political controversies of that era were reflected in the topics that captured the attention of moral and political philosophers writing at the time. During a period of widespread protests against the Vietnam War, philosophers turned their attention to issues of civil disobedience, conscientious objection, and the morality of warfare. With sexual mores undergoing a radical transformation and feminism emerging as an increasingly important social force, philosophers produced a significant body of work on the ethics of abortion. As political activism increased among black Americans in the wake of the civil rights movement, philosophers started to address questions of affirmative action and preferential treatment. With the welfare state in the ascendancy throughout the western world, distributive justice became one of the central preoccupations of philosophical theorizing, especially after the publication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice. And with the United States and the Soviet Union locked in a global ideological struggle, moral and political philosophers in the Anglo-American tradition debated the justice of capitalism and socialism, and displayed a renewed interest in Marx and Marxism.

The resurgence of interest in moral and political philosophy continued unabated through the end of the twentieth century. But by the last decade of the century, social and political conditions had changed dramatically in various respects, and those changes too were reflected in the writings of philosophers. With the end of the Cold War, the rise of nationalism and identity politics, and the increasing pressure—much of it technology-driven—toward greater globalization of the economy, some of the topics that had preoccupied philosophers in the preceding decades began to receive less attention, while new topics emerged to take their place. As the conflicts surrounding the war in Vietnam faded into memory, less work was done on civil disobedience and the morality of warfare. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, interest in Marx and Marxism waned, and fewer discussions were cast as contributions to the debate between capitalism and socialism. Instead, a great deal of work was devoted to exploring the foundations of liberal thought and debating the merits of rival versions of liberal theory. In addition, philosophers began investigating the suddenly pressing challenges to liberalism posed by questions of gender and by a variety of positions—such as nationalism, communitarianism, and multiculturalism—that emphasize the importance of particularistic allegiances and identifications. At the same time, philosophers' . . .

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