By Glen Newey
Why do political philosophers shrink back from politics? Glen Newey deals a hard and unique critique of liberalism, the dominant political philosophy of our time, tackling such key concerns as kingdom legitimacy, value-pluralism, neutrality, the character of politics, public cause, and morality in politics. examining significant liberal theorists, Newey argues that liberalism bypasses politics since it ignores or misunderstands human motivation, and elevates educational systembuilding over political realities of clash and gear.
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Additional resources for After Politics: The Rejection of Politics in Contemporary Liberal Philosophy
The most popular current version of this approach is liberal neutrality, but it also extends to liberal perfectionism. I shall say a little about each of these in turn. This is perhaps seen most clearly in the most philosophically prominent version of modern liberalism, namely neutrality. 3 This runs as follows. First, it is said: no attempt to justify political design succeeds which rests on insufficient reasons. Then follows a claim about the nature of value, knowledge about value, or conceptions of the good; the claim may be for example epistemic scepticism about value, a version of value-pluralism, or the 38 After Politics claim that no conception of the good is such that it cannot be reasonably rejected, or a direct claim to the effect that there is insufficient reason to prefer certain conceptions of the good over certain others in cases where the values or conceptions of the good conflict (for example, about the nature of political design).
As I have already argued, much contemporary theory fails to pay due regard to the autonomy of the political. A major source of this is tacit 32 After Politics belief in instrumentalism – according to which politics exists purely to serve external goals. But if we reconstitute politics as a field of ethical agency, the way is open to reconstrue it as manifesting (not just instrumentally producing) certain goods of agency. This is not to say that a philosophical account of political virtue will simply replicate the structures appropriate to describing the virtuous individual: it is, after all, a central tenet of Machiavelli’s theory of political virtue or virtù that it will not do so.
There are certain theory-given actions, themselves intrinsically or instrumentally valued, such that virtue is analysed as the disposition to perform them – maximising expected utility, or acting solely from regard for duty, for example. There is however good reason to doubt that focusing exclusively on the structural features of actions fully captures the nature of virtue. This is suggested by Aristotle’s remark, that virtue cannot be exhaustively constituted by dispositions to act, since what is required is not just that the agent performs an act of which a given virtue-term is independently predicable (for example, a habitually mendacious person who tells the truth from fear) but that the act is done as a virtuous person does it29- which in this case means, presumably, that its motivational ground is most perspicuously understood as regard for truthfulness for its own sake.
After Politics: The Rejection of Politics in Contemporary Liberal Philosophy by Glen Newey