Liberalism is an innovative introductory textbook exploring the dominant discourse of contemporary political theory and the core ideas that underpin it. Despite the ubiquity of liberalism there remains considerable disagreement about what contemporary political liberals believe. This book distinguishes modern political liberalism from earlier manifestations of the concept, yet shows how contemporary liberalism is derived from a long-standing historical tradition that includes John Locke, Immanuel Kant and J. S. Mill.
Contemporary liberalism combines ideas from this historical tradition to make a political theory that places at its heart the equal treatment of each person. Paul Kelly provides an overview of the basic building blocks of contemporary liberalism – contractarianism, impartiality, justice and freedom, – and introduces students to the ideas of its key theorists John Rawls, Brian Barry and Ronald Dworkin. He goes on to consider three major challenges facing liberalism today and concludes with a defence of the continuing relevance of political liberalism in the contemporary world.
Table of Contents
- 1. What is Liberalism?
- 2. The Sources of Liberal Equality
- 3. The Social Contract
- 4. Liberalism and Liberty
- 5. Liberalism and Equality
- 6. How Political is Political Liberalism?
- 7. False Neutrality and Ethnocentrism
- 8. Liberalism the State and Beyond
“Anyone wanting a lucid and accessible example of state-of-the-art political philosophy need look no further. In brief compass, Paul Kelly sets out an idea of liberal equality for our times, explains its rationale and defends it against a wide variety of challenges. I don't know how he managed to accomplish all this in a short book – I know it would have been beyond me.”
— Professor Brian Barry, Lieber Professor of Political Philosophy, Columbia University
“This is a first-rate introduction to the philosophy and politics of contemporary liberal thought. Kelly offers more than a careful and concise statement of liberal egalitarianism. He also traces its historical roots, explains its many attractions, and rebuts fashionable but misplaced objections to it.”
— Dr Matthew Clayton, Department of Politics & International Studies, University of Warwick