Rethinking Liberalism (Continuum Collection)
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This book explores liberalism's past and present transformations and proposes a prospective future as a neo-republican democratic liberalism. Bellamy engages with theorists of liberalism from J. S. Mill, through T. H. Green, Guido De Ruggiero, Carl Schmitt and Joseph Schumpeter, to F. A. Hayek, John Rawls and Michael Walzer. He contends that the pluralism and complexity of modern societies have undermined liberalism's communitarian and ethical assumptions. Studies of the Poll Tax fiasco in Britain, and of the constitutional dilemmas posed by the European Union confirm the contemporary inadequacies of traditional conceptions of liberal democracy.
Drawing on Max Weber, Bellamy advocates a return to a Machiavellian approach to politics to resolve the clashes resulting from competing values within complex situations. Unlike Weber however, he concentrates on the republican and democratic aspects of Machiavelli's thought. He proposes a republican strategy whereby the political dispersal of power constrains any ideal or interest from dominating another. Instead, everyone must seek mutually acceptable compromises.
The essays in "Rethinking Liberalism" map a passage from the liberal democratic norms and forms characteristic of nineteenth-century nation states, to an agnostic, democratic liberal politics suitable for the transnational and plural societies of the new millennium.
individual as an autonomous chooser of ends, capable of freely contracting into different social relationships. As we saw in Chapters 7 and 8, New Right proponents of negative liberty rights believe this mode of action is best satisfied within a somewhat idealized model of the capitalist market. By contrast, proponents of positive rights have argued that, although capitalism provided the initial impetus for the development of notions of rights, the subsequent elaboration of this doctrine by a
called upon to act, for whom the assertion of a right is liable to appear too indeterminate. What really defines a right is the complex of obligations within which it is situated. When we seek to work out what is involved in a right to life, for example, we are asking essentially what kinds of things we ought or ought not to be doing if certain risks are to be avoided and needs met. To make a discussion of rights primary, therefore, is to approach such problems of applied ethics from the wrong
Schmitt maintained that the decision over what is legitimate activity or not can only be made politically, not by a court on the basis of legal norms. He believed that the courts have neither the will nor the authority to act in such circumstances. Their formalistic reasoning is unsuited to decisiveness in a complex situation and they lack the popular mandate necessary to take on a 80 SCHMITT: CONTRADICTIONS OF LIBERAL DEMOCRACY party or group claiming significant support. Those Weimar
avoid the empirical constraints posed by the pluralism and complexity of modern industrial societies. Rather than expressing the consensual general will of autonomous individuals, democracy must be reconceived as a mechanism for exercising control and influence over governmental decisions, securing the advantages of criticism and competition, and for achieving the co-ordination of a plurality of agents and the authoritative allocation of burdens and benefits amongst them. Schumpeter's alternative
however, might counter that properly understood the two views are perfectly compatible.16 A theory of rights need not claim to be a complete moral system. Human rights provide a baseline protecting the capacity of individuals to enter into communitarian relationships by both securing them against the harmful interference of others and guaranteeing them the minimum necessary to engage in an uncoerced manner in any acceptable social set-up. According to this line of argument, since human agency and