Freedom and Pluralism: conflicts and convergence


  • 24/01/2012
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Join us for this fascinating talk which draws from a book manuscript in progress on liberal theory and 
the history of liberal thought.

The book is built around an enduring tension between
 two ways of thinking about freedom and intermediate groups – associations, churches, cultural groups, local levels of government, universities, guilds, and more. One, pluralist, strand of liberalism sees them as the 
sites in which diverse lives are freely led, as the manifestations of 
liberal freedoms in the social world, and as bulwarks of freedom against
 the power of the state. The other, rationalist, strand sees them as local
 tyrannies, to be remade as far as possible as internally liberal or
 else abolished altogether so that persons may be free of local, conformist,
 conservative power.

The tension
 is not an intellectual failure; worrying about threats to freedom 
from diverse and complex social actors is just what liberals should be
 doing. Yet the tension does create genuine, ongoing, difficulties for 
liberal theory, and for liberal practice.

Jacob T. Levy is Tomlinson Professor of Political Theory in the Department
 of Political Science, an associate member of the Department of Philosophy, 
and founder and coordinator of the Research Group on Constitutional Studies 
at McGill University.  He was formerly Assistant Professor of Political
 Science at the University of Chicago.  He holds a AB with Honors in
 Political Science from Brown University, an MA and a PhD in Politics from 
Princeton University, and an LLM from the University of Chicago Law School.
 He is the author of The Multiculturalism of Fear (Oxford University 
Press 2000) and the co-editor with Iris Marion Young of Colonialism and Its 
Legacies, and of many articles and chapters on the history of political 
thought, multiculturalism, federalism, and constitutionalism. He is 
a member of the academic review committee of the Institute for Humane 
Studies, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and a blogger at