A defense of liberalism, understood as a perfectionist doctrine that presupposes an ideal but controversial notion of human well-being.
Drawing on recent developments in liberal theory, Bert van den Brink develops an alternative defense of liberalism. He argues that liberal theorists should admit that their doctrine is not neutral with regard to conceptions of the good life—that it in fact fosters ideals of personal autonomy and a pluralist environment. These ideals generate irreconcilable, tragic conflicts between liberal and nonliberal ideals, and it is only by taking these conflicts seriously that liberals can learn of the unwanted consequences of liberal doctrine, effectively rebut critics, and react adequately to the complex pluralism of contemporary societies.
Bert van den Brink is a Research Fellow on the Faculty of Law at Tilburg University, The Netherlands and coeditor of Bürgergesellschaft, Recht und Demokratie.
"…an excellent review of contemporary liberal philosophy. " — CHOICE
"Offering a fresh and original perspective on recent debates over the foundations of normative political theory, van den Brink's analyses of Rawls, Raz, Habermas, Taylor, Honneth and Kymlicka (among others) are subtle, sophisticated, and state-of-the-art. His sensitivity to the vulnerabilities of having 'illiberal' commitments in liberal society is nicely balanced with a firm commitment to liberalism's core value of personal autonomy. " — Joel Anderson, Washington University in St. Louis