Political Economy and the Politics of Virtue: US Public Philosophy at Century's End

William A. Galston

in Debating Democracy's Discontent

Published in print October 1998 | ISBN: 9780198294962
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598708 | DOI:
 Political Economy and the Politics of Virtue: US Public Philosophy at Century's End

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A public philosophy is rooted in, and addressed to, a particular public in a specific historical situation. One of the most important tasks before us is to restore the public’s confidence in government as the instrument of their purposes rather than as what it now appears–an alien, intrusive, unresponsive power. While few question the appropriateness of the recognition of long-denied rights, some public intellectuals are now expressing doubts about the general “culture of rights” to which it has given rise. A liberal democracy should be prepared to allow wide though not unlimited scope for diverse group practices, with the understanding that membership in certain groups may involve the voluntary renunciation of certain otherwise enforceable individual rights. If we go farther, if we press too hard on moral ideals such as liberal autonomy, democratic individuality, or direct participation in public affairs, if we require subgroups to reorganize their internal affairs in accordance with liberal democratic principles, we run the risk of exacerbating the conflicts we set out to abate.

Keywords: alien; confidence; conflicts; culture; diverse; Government; ideals; particular; rights; subgroups

Chapter.  10506 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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