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Liberals and communitarians

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  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Over the past decade, one of the most controversial and influential challenges to liberal political theory has been mounted by a number of writers usually labelled "communitarian". Focusing primarily upon the philosophical and metaphysical underpinnings of liberal accounts of justice, these critics have argued that such accounts presuppose an inadequate conception of the person and of the relationship between individuals and their communities, resulting in an impoverished view of the role of the state. This book traces the progress of the debate. Beginning with an account of John Rawls's "A Theory of Justice", it goes on to provide clear presentations of the work of the main communitarians - Michael Sandel, Alisdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor and Michael Walzer. This is followed by an assessment of Rawls's more recent work, in which his "political" liberalism is shown to provide resources for a response to the communitarian critique. Finally, the authors examine the writings of two other liberal theorists, Richard Rorty and Joseph Raz, each of whom can be read as pursuing strikingly different lines of argument which avoid the difficulties faced by Rawls but raise new problems of their own. With a guiding agenda of themes and issues, this book is a useful aid to students of contemporary political theory.

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