While liberals agree that the best society is one that supports the equal exercise of personal liberty, there is little agreement among them on what policies best achieve this end. Conflicts within liberalism over the place of socially derived goals vis-à-vis personal liberty and autonomy create tension and skew public discourse on policy alternatives. In this article, I characterize the debate among dominant strands of liberal ideology and consider the effort of Charles Taylor to resolve these tensions. Finding his resolution unsatisfying, I explore the alternative conception offered by American pragmatism. I argue that liberal theories fail because they fall prey to the problem of principles-they attempt to justify axiomatic thinking rather than perpetuate society and culture. Pragmatism provides a justification for liberal public discourse as the best mechanism for constructing, evaluating and revising policies that support cultural adaptation to social, economic and technological contingencies.
Hacker, H.J. (2010), "“Democracies’ guardian genius”1: pragmatism and liberal discourse in public policy", International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 87-110. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOTB-13-01-2010-B005Download as .RIS
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