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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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A Defense of Minimalist Liberalism

A Defense of Minimalist Liberalism

(p.117) 8 A Defense of Minimalist Liberalism
Debating Democracy's Discontent

Richard Rorty

Oxford University Press

Most people nowadays believe both that a free society is one in which citizens participate in government, and that it is one in which people are, within the limits Mill defined, left alone to choose their own values and ends. Liberals should not allow themselves to be encumbered with the idea of a self which is prior to its ends: existentialist, Californian, self which can somehow sit back and choose ends, values, and affiliations without reference to anything except its own momentary pleasure. The pragmatist, minimalist liberal, position is: try to educate the citizenry in the civic virtue of having as few compelling interests, beliefs, and desires as possible, to get them to be as flexible and wishy-washy as possible, and to value democratic consensus more than they value almost anything else. When Sandel says that liberals who have a merely “cooperative” vision of a community cannot meet Nozickian objections to redistributivist policies, the minimalist liberal should reply that they are met sentimentally, by telling sob stories about what happens to the poor in nonredistributivist societies. What emerges from Rawlsian attempts to put the search for consensual compromise above moral and religious conviction is not an absence of morality and religion, but new moralities and new religions.

Keywords:   compromise, consensus, conviction, existentialist, minimalist, morality, pragmatist, redistributivism, sentiment, wishy-washy

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