Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government

Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government

Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government

Republicanism: A Theory of Freedom and Government

Synopsis

This is the first full-length presentation of a republican alternative to the liberal and communitarian theories that have dominated political philosophy in recent years. The author's eloquent, compelling account opens with an examination of the traditional republican conception of freedom as non-domination, contrasting this with established negative and positive views of liberalism. The book examines what the implementation of the ideal would imply for substantive policy-making, constitutional and democratic design, regulatory control and the relation between state and civil society. Professor Pettit's powerful and insightful new work offers not only a unified, theoretical overview of the many strands of republican ideas, it also provides a new and sophisticated perspective on studies in related fields including the history of ideas, jurisprudence, and criminology. The author had included a new postscript to this paperback edition, which offers a sketch of the crucial republican ideas, and to reinforce the argument that the republican tradition deserves more attention than it has generally received among contemporary political theorists.

Excerpt

I argued in The Common Mind (1993, 1996) for a social philosophy that is at once anti-collectivist and anti-atomist. The philosophy is anti-collectivist in rejecting the idea that individuals are the playthings of aggregate social forces; they are not numbers in a game of historical chance, not pawns in a march to historical destiny. The philosophy is anti-atomist in insisting that nevertheless the notion of the solitary individual is essentially bogus: people depend on one another, and in more than a causal way, for the very ability to think; they are essentially social creatures. In the concluding part of the earlier book, I sketched some implications of this philosophy for political theory and I mentioned the attractions of republicanism for anyone who holds by such a view. I do not explicitly discuss those implications in the present book, but it should be clear that I consider it as a sequel to the earlier volume. Many commentators on The Common Mind looked for a fuller account of republicanism, and of the difference between republicanism and liberalism. I hope that this book will provide what they were seeking.

I discovered republicanism about ten years ago, when I was engaged in work with John Braithwaite on criminal justice and political ideals, in particular the ideal of liberty. Conscious of older, republican ways of thinking about political liberty, we wondered how it could be possible to see the ideal as inherently social in character--to see it as equivalent to citizenship in a republic--and at the same time to see it as a distinctively subjective value that enabled the person enjoying it to have a sense of psychological security and status. And then we realized that such a way of thinking about liberty became accessible once you made two things central. First, that there is a big difference between constrained interference that is designed for a common good--say, the interference of a law that no one contests--and arbitrary interference. And second, that there is a big difference between just happening to avoid such arbitrary interference--say, because the powers that be quite like you--and being more or less invulnerable to it. Make those things important and it is very natural to think of freedom as the social status of being relatively proof against arbitrary interference by others, and of being able to enjoy a sense of security and standing among them. The approach casts freedom as non- domination: as a condition under which a person is more or less . . .

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