Value pluralism is the idea, most prominently endorsed by Isaiah Berlin, that fundamental human values are universal, plural, conflicting, and incommensurable with one another. Incommensurability is the key component of pluralism, undermining familiar monist philosophies such as utilitarianism. But if values are incommensurable, how do we decide between them when they conflict? George Crowder assesses a range of responses to this problem proposed by Berlin and developed by his successors. Three broad approaches are especially important: universalism, contextualism, and conceptualism. Crowder (...) argues that the conceptual approach is the most fruitful, yielding norms of value diversity, personal autonomy, and inclusive democracy. Historical context must also be taken into account. Together these approaches indicate a liberal politics of redistribution, multiculturalism, and constitutionalism, and a public policy in which basic values are carefully balanced. The Problem of Value Pluralism: Isaiah Berlin and Beyond is a uniquely comprehensive survey of the political theory of value pluralism and also an original contribution by a leading voice in the pluralist literature. Scholars and researchers interested in the work of Berlin, liberalism, value pluralism, and related ideas will find this a stimulating and valuable source. (shrink)
Multiculturalism is one of the most controversial ideas in contemporary politics. In this new book George Crowder examines some of the leading responses to multiculturalism, both supportive and critical, found in the work of recent political theorists. The book provides a clear and accessible introduction to a diverse array of thinkers who have engaged with multiculturalism. These include Will Kymlicka, whose account of cultural rights is seminal, liberal critics of multiculturalism such as Brian Barry and Susan Okin, and multiculturalist critics (...) of liberalism including Charles Taylor, Iris Marion Young, James Tully, and Bhikhu Parekh. In addition the discussion covers a wide range of other perspectives on multiculturalism - libertarian, feminist, democratic, nationalist, cosmopolitan - and rival accounts of Islamic and Confucian political culture. While offering a balanced assessment of these theories, Crowder also argues the case for a distinctive liberal-pluralist approach to multiculturalism, combining a liberal framework that emphasises the importance of personal autonomy with the value pluralism of thinkers such as Isaiah Berlin. This clear and comprehensive account will be an indispensable textbook for students in politics, sociology and political and social theory. (shrink)
Is the liberal state entitled to intervene in the internal affairs of its nonliberal minorities to promote individual autonomy as a public ideal, or should it tolerate the nonliberal practices of such groups in the name of legitimate diversity? This problem can be fruitfully approached from the perspective of Isaiah Berlin's notion of "value pluralism." According to William Galston, value pluralism privileges a form of liberalism that is maximally accommodating of nonliberal groups and their practices. I agree that pluralism fits (...) best with a liberal political framework, but I depart from Galston's interpretation of what liberal pluralism involves. Taking value pluralism seriously, I argue, implies a form of liberalism in which personal autonomy is a central public ideal. (shrink)
Isaiah Berlin is one of the foremost liberal thinkers of the twentieth century. Most notably in his classic “Two Concepts of Liberty”, he locates the intellectual roots of that century’s totalitarian politics in fundamental ideas about the nature of freedom and morality.
John Gray claims that ‘value pluralism’, or the plurality and incommensurability of basic values, undermines any attempt to make a reasoned case for the superiority of liberalism (or any other ideology) over its rivals. Incommensurable values, he says, cannot be subjected to a rational ranking, except in particular cases, yet liberalism appears to advocate the promotion of certain values rather than others in general terms. I argue that Gray’s critique has force against some traditional justifications of liberal politics, but that (...) he exaggerates its reach against other, more recent forms of liberal theory. In particular, Gray’s view of liberalism as merely one form of life among others, with no rational claims to precedence, rests on a mistaken understanding of the implications of value pluralism. The incommensurability of values does not imply the absolute incommensurability of forms of life, such as those of liberal and non‐liberal cultures. Far from being incompatible with the reasoned advocacy of liberalism, value pluralism may itself provide liberalism with a rational grounding. (shrink)
Some theorists have argued recently that Berlinian value pluralism points not to liberalism, as Berlin supposed, but, in effect, to some form of communitarianism. To what extent is this true, and, to the extent that it is true, what kind of communitarianism fits best with the pluralist outlook? I argue that pluralists should acknowledge community as an important source of value and as a substantial value in itself, but they should also be prepared to question traditions and to respect values (...) other than community. In particular, pluralism points to personal autonomy as playing a special role when we must choose among incommensurable goods in conflict. Consequently, the pluralist outlook is at odds with conservative communitarianisms that tend to place existing traditions beyond question, and with radical variants of communitarianism, such as Marxism and classical anarchism, which look forward to future communities in which the need to cope with hard public choices has largely been eliminated. Rather, Berlinian pluralism fits best with a liberal or moderate kind of communitarianism that balances community with other goods, especially personal autonomy. (shrink)
Few would disagree that contemporary society is characterized by ‘pluralism’, but what this means is widely disputed. Among the many senses of pluralism current in contemporary political theory, ‘value pluralism’ is one of the most keenly contested. The classic account is found in Isaiah Berlin, who sees basic human values as irreducibly multiple, often conflicting, and sometimes incommensurable with one another.Berlin’s pluralist views are scattered throughout his work, but major statements include the Introduction and last section of ‘Two Concepts of (...) Liberty’ in Berlin (2002), Berlin (1990), and Berlin (2000). Other accounts of pluralism influenced by Berlin include Raz (1986); Hampshire (1989); Stocker (1990); Nussbaum (1992) chapter 2; Kekes (1993); Gray (1995a, b); Chang (1997); Crowder (2002, 2004); Galston (2002, 2005). In the Continental tradition the concept of value pluralism is often traced to Max Weber (1948). Berlin seems in general to have believed that the pluralist outl .. (shrink)
Isaiah Berlin was one of the leading political thinkers of the twentieth century, and his work continues to attract admiration and debate. In Isaiah Berlin: Liberty, Pluralism and Liberalism, George Crowder provides both an accessible introduction to Berlin's ideas and an original contribution to political theory. Berlin's range of interests and learning was vast but united by a single overarching project: the uncovering of the conceptual roots of twentieth-century totalitarianism. He traces these through three levels of analysis: the distortion of (...) the concept of freedom by thinkers such as Rousseau, Fichte, Hegel and Marx; the scientism of the Enlightenment and irrationalism of the Counter-Enlightenment and romanticism; and moral monism, the idea that all ethical questions can be answered by reference to a single moral law. Against monism, Berlin asserts the claims of value pluralism, which he aligns with a politics of liberal moderation. In this new assessment, Crowder argues that Berlin's critique of the modern enemies of liberty is exciting and powerful, but also that the coherence of his thought is threatened by a tension between its liberal and pluralist elements. Crowder goes on to suggest how that tension can be resolved by appeal to arguments that go beyond the case actually presented by Berlin but which remain within the spirit of his general outlook. (shrink)
Available from UMI in association with The British Library. Requires signed TDF. ;This thesis traces the central tradition of nineteenth-century anarchism in the work of Godwin, Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin. Its primary focus is on their shared commitment to individual freedom as a pre-eminent value. Previous studies have often given a misleading picture of the tradition because they have misunderstood the conception of freedom at its heart. The present work takes up this issue in terms of the distinction between "negative" (...) and "positive" freedom. Against recent claims that the anarchist idea of freedom is negative, it is argued that it is a species of positive liberty: the traditional "rationalist" idea of freedom as the determination of the individual by his authentic self, conceived as that part of his personality governed by reason and the moral law. This interpretation may seem surprising in view of the influential thesis, associated with Berlin, that there is a conceptual connection between positive ideas of liberty and authoritarian political theories. A proper understanding of the anarchists, whose idea of freedom is both positive and libertarian, shows that thesis to be mistaken. The anarchist account of freedom and its value is owed to Rousseau in particular. Even though the anarchists are often expressly hostile to him, their thought may be said to be built upon a Rousseauian foundation. The anarchists go beyond Rousseau, however, in attacking, on the ground of its denial of rationalist freedom, not only the state in its existing form, but the state itself. The basic structure of this negative part of their case is common to all the anarchists. Their views are more divergent on the nature of the desirable society that will succeed the abolition of the state. In no case, however, do the anarchists produce a convincing explanation of how, given their own account of human nature, the free and stateless society is to be maintained. Their negative case against the state is more powerful, but in the end this, too, is inconclusive. The most fundamental objections to it concern the rationalist theory of freedom on which it rests. Nor does the attempt to revive that case using the modern concept of "autonomy" wholly succeed. (shrink)
Vittorio Hösle’s evaluation of the Soviet Revolution on the ground of the philosophy of history can be usefully examined from the value-pluralist perspective of Isaiah Berlin. Although Berlinwould agree with most ofHösle’s judgements on the Revolution, he would do so for very different reasons. Most importantly, Berlin would not accept the teleology that lies at the heart of the philosophy of history. For Berlin, the notion of a human.
ABSTRACT Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty” is clearly set within a Cold War context. However, its framework of ideas is also applicable to a range of twenty-first century social and political issues. First, Berlin’s “inversion thesis” concerning liberty captures a salient pattern of thought in radical Islamism. Second, his understanding of the power of belonging and recognition bears significantly on the rise of authoritarian nationalism and populism. Third, his value pluralism implies a critique of global neoliberalism and support for (...) egalitarian liberalism or social democracy. Thus, Berlin’s framework provides us with a set of useful tools for understanding and responding to some of the most urgent political problems that trouble us now. But this framework has limitations and needs to be supplemented by thinking that goes beyond Berlin. (shrink)
Brian Trainor argues that the current hostility of political theorists towards the idea of the common good is in part due to the influence of Isaiah Berlin's concept of `value pluralism', or the incommensurability of basic human values. I agree with Trainor's opposition to the `agonistic' interpretation of pluralism, associated with thinkers like Chantal Mouffe. However, it is not the case that the only alternative to the pluralism— agonism thesis is the monist defence of a thick common good advocated by (...) Trainor. Between these extremes there is a middle way that accepts the deep plurality of values in Berlin's sense, but recognizes a case for a thin conception of the common good — that is, a liberal political framework. (shrink)
Isaiah Berlin is widely acknowledged as a major figure in twentieth-century political philosophy and the history of ideas. His famous Oxford inaugural lecture, Two Concepts of Liberty, especially the last, crucial, section, entitled The One and the Many, has provoked a vast secondary literature. So it is surprising that until now there has been no substantial critical reader dedicated to his work.Editors George Crowder and Henry Hardy have admirably filled this need with this stimulating new volume, which provides a systematic (...) and comprehensive treatment of the main aspects of Berlin's work. The essays (all but two of which are newly commissioned) critically examine Berlin's work across its whole range, including his treatment of Marx, Russian thinkers, Jewish themes, liberty, pluralism, the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment, nationalism, history, and religion.The contributors are: Jonathan Allen (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign); Shlomo Avineri (Hebrew University, Jerusalem); Terrell Carver (University of Bristol); Joshua L. Cherniss (Harvard and Oxford Universities); George Crowder (Flinders University); William A. Galston (University of Maryland); Graeme Garrard (Cardiff University); Ryan Hanley (Marquette University); Henry Hardy (Oxford University); Michael Jinkins (Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary); David Miller (Oxford University); Mario Ricciardi (University of Milan); and Andrzej Walicki (University of Notre Dame).Complete with a valuable bibliography, this outstanding collection of recent scholarship on a seminal thinker shows the continuing relevance and importance of Berlin's many contributions to the understanding of our contemporary predicament.George Crowder (Adelaide, Australia), associate professor in the School of Political and International Studies at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, is the author of Classical Anarchism, Liberalism and Value Pluralism and Isaiah Berlin: Liberty and Pluralism.Henry Hardy (Oxford, England), a Fellow of Wolfson College (Oxford, England), Isaiah Berlin's editor, and one of his literary trustees, has edited or co-edited 17 books by Isaiah Berlin, most recently Political Ideas in the Romantic Age, Flourishing: Letters 1928-1946, and The Soviet Mind: Russian Culture under Communism. He is currently working with Jennifer Holmes on an edition of Berlin's letters. (shrink)
Vittorio Hösle’s reply helpfully clarifies his ethical position but raises three questions from a value-pluralist point of view. First, is the Kantian starting point he proposes a monist position that undercuts the value pluralism to which he says he is committed? Second, in what sense does he accept the central pluralist idea of the incommensurability of values? In particular, what kind of constraint does he believe this places on the rank ordering of values? The formulations he offers are ambiguous between (...) allowing contextual ordering, which is widely endorsed by pluralists, and permitting a comprehensive order that applies in all cases, which most pluralists would reject. Third, Hösle’s commitment to the cause of progress is admirable, but how can this be squared with pluralism? Here, I return to the broad approaches to the problem of pluralist ranking that I identified in my original reply to Hösle. (shrink)
Discussing the crucifix case, Beata Polanowska-Sygulska concludes that the decision on appeal fits with Berlinian value pluralism, while the initial judgement was ethically monist. Her assumption is that pluralism favours cultural diversity against uniform law. This assumption is too simple and needs to be qualified by several considerations. First, we should be clear that, under pluralism, a moral question may have ‘one right answer’ if this is contextual. Second, so far as pluralism connects with cultural diversity, this has multiple dimensions, (...) applying not just among societies but within them as well. Third, pluralists ought to be concerned primarily with promoting a diversity of values rather than cultures. When these matters are properly taken into account, it can be seen that a uniform law may be more pluralist than a multiplicity of local laws, depending on the circumstances. (shrink)