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Chapter

Cover Issues in Political Theory

2. Liberty  

Ian Carter

This chapter examines the concept of liberty. There are different rival interpretations of liberty. These interpretations can be discussed in terms of a well-known distinction: that between negative and positive liberty. Negative liberty is the absence of something: normally, the absence of external obstacles imposed by other human agents. Positive liberty is the presence of something: the exercise of our choice-making capacities in ways that put us in control of our own lives. Much of the recent literature on liberty has focused on a new challenge to these conceptions of liberty. The challenge comes from thinkers inspired by the neo-roman or republican idea of liberty as the antithesis of slavery. Republicans define liberty as the absence of domination. Meanwhile, some libertarians, who hold that liberty is best realized through the protection of private property and contract, have argued that liberty is always limited by the pursuit of economic equality.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

4. The Place of Liberty  

This chapter explores the theory that, to avoid the ‘tyranny of the majority’, we should be given the liberty to act just as we wish, provided that we do no harm to others. The focus is on John Stuart Mill's Liberty Principle (also known as the Harm Principle), according to which you may justifiably limit a person's freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another. The chapter considers Mill's arguments based on the Liberty Principle, including his claim there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion, and that harming another's interests is not a sufficient condition to justify constraint. It also discusses justifications for the Liberty Principle by focusing on issues of rights and utility, individuality and progress, and liberty as an intrinsic good. It concludes with an analysis of some of the problems of the kind of liberalism espoused by Mill's Liberty Principle.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

4. The Place of Liberty  

This chapter explores the theory that, to avoid the ‘tyranny of the majority’, we should be given the liberty to act just as we wish, provided that we do no harm to others. The focus is on John Stuart Mill’s Liberty Principle (also known as the Harm Principle), according to which you may justifiably limit a person’s freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another. The chapter considers Mill’s arguments based on the Liberty Principle, including his claim there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion, and that harming another’s interests is not a sufficient condition to justify constraint. It also discusses justifications for the Liberty Principle by focusing on issues of rights and utility, individuality and progress, and liberty as an intrinsic good. It concludes with an analysis of some of the problems of the kind of liberalism espoused by Mill’s Liberty Principle.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

Introduction  

This text explores the main questions of political philosophy and looks at some of the most influential answers, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Each chapter takes on a particular question or controversy. The natural starting-point is political power, the right to command. The first chapter considers the question of what would happen in a ‘state of nature’ without government, while the second tackles the problem of political obligation. The third chapter is concerned with democracy, asking whether a state should be democratic, for example, or whether there is any rationale for preferring rule by the people to rule by an expert. The next two chapters deal with liberty and property. The text concludes by focusing on questions that have drawn greater attention in more recent decades, such as issues of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration, global justice, and justice to future generations.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

5. The Distribution of Property  

This chapter examines the concept of distributive justice, asking in particular whether citizens should have the liberty to acquire and dispose of property however they see fit, or whether there are justified restrictions on economic activity in the name of liberty or justice. It begins with a discussion of the problem of distributive justice, taking into account a variety of differing opinions on how a liberal society should distribute property, along with the so-called income parade. It then considers property and markets, focusing on John Locke's ideas, and the free market principle. It also explores John Rawls's theory of justice and some of the criticisms levelled against him, including those by Robert Nozick.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights

The Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights  

Anthony J. Langlois

This chapter covers the philosophical foundations of human rights. It highlights the importance of human rights history to the understanding of debates and problems when theorizing about human rights. The human rights language has been globally recognized as a response to injustice. However, philosophers from the spectrum of conservatism, liberalism, utilitarianism, and socialism attacked the idea of natural rights, while the radicals criticized the rights of man for being the rights of bourgeois man. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the defining text of the human rights movement, which is correlated to history and philosophy. The chapter also looks into the philosophical justification and universalism of modern human rights. It explores the concepts of cultural relativism and human rights imperialism. Additionally, the types of human rights revolve around liberty and welfare rights.

Book

Cover Issues in Political Theory

Catriona McKinnon, Robert Jubb, and Patrick Tomlin

Issues in Political Theory provides an introduction to political theory and how it is applied to address the most important issues confronting the world today. It has a focus on real-world issues and includes case studies. The text examines important and influential areas of political theory. The text includes chapters on liberty, global poverty, sovereignty and borders, and the environment provide readers with fresh insight on important debates in political theory. Case studies in this text look at contemporary issues including same-sex marriage, racial inequality, sweatshop labour, and Brexit.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

15. Montesquieu  

Yoshie Kawade

This chapter examines Montesquieu's political theory. Montesquieu's political theory, and his Spirit of the Laws in particular, has been considered a complex mosaic of varied and sometimes disparate intellectual traditions. Despite the forbidding structure of his works, important and impressive discussions of issues such as the justification of universal justice, a scientific approach to the law, a new typology of governments, a materialistic theory of climate, and the idea of a free state based on separate and balanced powers can be found there. After providing a short biography of Montesquieu, the chapter analyses his critique of despotism as well as the key themes of his mature political theory: the separation of powers, the three forms of government, the lessons of history, and the conditions of political liberty.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

22. J. S. Mill on Liberty  

Paul Kelly

This chapter examines John Stuart Mill's views on liberty. It first provides a short biography of Mill before discussing his revision of psychological hedonism in light of accusations by Thomas Carlyle, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his followers, that Mill's hedonistic naturalism is no better than a philosophy for ‘swine’. Mill addressed this charge by drawing a categorical distinction between higher and lower pleasures. The chapter also considers the equally problematic attempt to derive Mill's liberty principle from an act-utilitarian moral philosophy as well as the claim that Mill's religion of humanity involves a form of moral and philosophical coercion as great as anything he challenges. It concludes with an analysis of Mill's Considerations on Representative Government and shows that its defence of constitutional democracy reflects his philosophical liberalism.

Chapter

Cover Political Ideologies

2. Liberalism  

Robin Redhead and Stephen Hood

This chapter explores the basic assumptions of liberal ideology. It first traces the origins of liberalism before discussing some key concepts and values of a liberal ideology such as liberty, democracy, rights, and tolerance. It then considers two of the most important, yet contrasting, strands within liberalism: economic liberalism, which supports policies of privatization and laissez-faire economics, and social liberalism, whose concern for individual freedom is coupled with a commitment to social equality. The chapter also looks at some key criticisms of liberal ideas, focusing on the liberal vision of a just society, as well as the influence of liberalism on social movements and political parties in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world. Finally, it illustrates the pervasiveness of liberalism and how it is related to other ideologies.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

Introduction  

This text explores the main questions of political philosophy and looks at some of the most influential answers, from the ancient Greeks to the present day. Each chapter takes on a particular question or controversy. The natural starting point is political power, the right to command. The first chapter considers the question of what would happen in a ‘state of nature’ without government, while the second tackles the problem of political obligation. The third chapter is concerned with democracy, asking whether a state should be democratic, for example, or whether there is any rationale for preferring rule by the people to rule by an expert. The next two chapters deal with liberty and property. The text concludes by focusing on questions that have drawn greater attention in more recent decades, such as issues of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, immigration, global justice, and justice to future generations.

Chapter

Cover Rethinking Political Thinkers

30. Frederick Douglass  

Kiara Gilbert and Karen Salt

This chapter looks at the works of Black American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. It argues that Douglass’ political thinking was shaped by his experiences as an enslaved, fugitive, and freed person. Douglass fought for the emancipation of all enslaved peoples across the USA as he believed all humans were born with a right to self-determination and freedom from enslavement. Additionally, Douglass believed slavery to be a deep violation of a person’s humanity. The chapter explains that Douglass’ abolitionism was grounded in natural rights theory. It looks at the legacy of the influential political theory on liberty that Douglass left behind. This was despite his complicated and often contradictory relationship to early women’s rights movements and his struggles to acknowledge the claims of Indigenous people.

Chapter

Cover Contemporary Political Philosophy

4. Libertarianism  

This chapter focuses on libertarianism and its main assumptions. According to libertarians, people have a right to dispose freely of their goods and services, and that they have this right whether or not it is the best way to ensure productivity. Put another way, government has no right to interfere in the market, even in order to increase efficiency. The chapter begins with a discussion of the diversity of right-wing political theory, with particular emphasis on Robert Nozick’s entitlement theory of justice and his intuitive argument. It then considers the idea of a right to liberty and the contractarian idea of mutual advantage, along with Nozick’s principle of ‘self-ownership’. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the politics of libertarianism, taking into account its rejection of the principle of rectifying unequal circumstances, even as it shares with liberal equality a commitment to the principle of respect for people’s choices.

Chapter

Cover Human Rights: Politics and Practice

1. Normative and Theoretical Foundations of Human Rights  

Anthony J. Langlois

This chapter discusses the normative and theoretical foundations of human rights. More specifically, it examines the theoretical basis for the normative ideas advanced by those who use the language of human rights for an ethical critique of international politics and policy. The chapter first traces the origins of the language of rights before discussing cultural relativism and imperialism, both of which challenge the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ claim to have universal application. It then considers the negative/positive distinction as a way of thinking about the differences between liberty and welfare rights. It also explores group rights, along with the philosophical and political history of the idea of human rights. Finally, it explains how the human rights agenda is deeply political, showing that it privileges a certain set of normative commitments that its proponents hope will become, in time, the ethical constitution of the international system.

Chapter

Cover Political Thinkers

29. Arendt  

Justine Lacroix

This chapter examines a number of key concepts in Hannah Arendt's work, with particular emphasis on how they have influenced contemporary thought about the meaning of human rights. It begins with a discussion of Arendt's claim that totalitarianism amounts to a destruction of the political domain and a denial of the human condition itself; this in turn had occurred only because human rights had lost all validity. It then considers Arendt's formula of the ‘right to have rights’ and how it opens the way to a ‘political’ conception of human rights founded on the defence of republican institutions and public-spiritedness. It shows that this ‘political’ interpretation of human rights is itself based on an underlying understanding of the human condition as marked by natality, liberty, plurality and action, The chapter concludes by reflecting on the so-called ‘right to humanity’.

Chapter

Cover Democratization

4. Measuring Democracy and Democratization  

Patrick Bernhagen

This chapter considers problems associated with classifying countries as democracies and non-democracies and measuring the extent to which a country has advanced on the path of democratization. It first examines different concepts and dimensions of democracy such as political sovereignty, political liberty, competition, participation, freedom of expression and belief, and rule of law. Using publicly available quantitative indices of democracy, the chapter illustrates the problems faced by researchers of translating these concepts into measures. It also asks whether democracy should be thought of as a property that is either present or absent, or, alternatively, a characteristic that can be present to a greater or lesser extent. Finally, it discusses various hybrid regime categories for their contribution to efforts of classifying and measuring political regimes.

Chapter

Cover An Introduction to Political Philosophy

5. The Distribution of Property  

This chapter examines the concept of distributive justice, asking in particular whether citizens should have the liberty to acquire and dispose of property however they see fit, or whether there are justified restrictions on economic activity in the name of liberty or justice. It begins with a discussion of the problem of distributive justice, taking into account a variety of differing opinions on how a liberal society should distribute property, along with the so-called income parade. It then considers property and markets, focusing on John Locke’s ideas, and the free market principle. It also explores John Rawls’s theory of justice and some of the criticisms levelled against him, including those by Robert Nozick.