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Debating Democracy's DiscontentEssays on American Politics, Law, and Public Philosophy$
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Anita L. Allen and Milton C. Regan

Print publication date: 1998

Print ISBN-13: 9780198294962

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198294964.001.0001

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

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

(p.63) 4 Political Economy and the Politics of Virtue: US Public Philosophy at Century's End
Debating Democracy's Discontent

William A. Galston (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

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

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