Enlightenment liberalism and the challenge of pluralism

PhD Thesis

Jones, M. 2012. Enlightenment liberalism and the challenge of pluralism. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Politics and International Relations
AuthorsJones, M.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification namePhD

Issues relating to diversity and pluralism continue to permeate both social and political discourse. Of particular contemporary importance and relevance are those issues raised when the demands associated with forms of pluralism clash with those of the liberal state. These forms of pluralism can be divided into two subcategories: thin and thick pluralism. Thin pluralism refers to forms of pluralism that can be accommodated by the existing liberal framework, whereas thick pluralism challenges this liberal framework.

This thesis is an examination of four forms of political association that may be able to accommodate and support the demands of pluralism. These four models are Rawls’ political liberalism, Crowder’s value pluralism, Rorty’s post-foundational liberalism, and Mouffe’s radical democratic project. What unites these four forms of political association is their capacity to avoid the exclusionary effects of a form of liberalism that I, following Gaus, refer to as Enlightenment liberalism. As the name suggests, this conception of liberalism is anchored in the Enlightenment, and in particular with what may be considered as the Enlightenment view of reason. As such, therefore, Enlightenment liberalism is both universal and perfectionist. In this context, I argue that Enlightenment liberalism is a species of what Berlin refers to as ‘moral monism’.

These four forms of political association are ordered in such a way as to chart an intellectual trajectory. Rawls and Crowder are both situated firmly within the liberal tradition, whereas Rorty and Mouffe move beyond this, and embrace a form of post-foundational politics. It is in this trajectory that the second theme of this thesis emerges. This is centred on a paradox: in order to avoid the exclusionary effect of Enlightenment liberalism and embrace a form of political association that meets the demands of pluralism and diversity, the models examined still promote autonomy as the dominant virtue.

Key words: liberalism, pluralism, the Enlightenment, Enlightenment liberalism, Romanticism, communitarianism, feminism, political liberalism, value pluralism, post-foundational liberalism, radical democracy, agonistic pluralism, Rawls, Crowder, Rorty, Laclau, Mouffe.

KeywordsLiberalism; pluralism; the Enlightenment; Enlightenment liberalism; Romanticism; communitarianism; feminism political liberalism; value pluralism; post-foundational liberalism; radical democracy; agonistic pluralism; Rawls; Crowder; Rorty; Laclau; Mouffe.
FunderCanterbury Christ Church University
Publication process dates
Deposited18 Mar 2013
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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