I am grateful to Professor Dagger for his insightful critique. He brings out the continuities and differences between Democracy's Discontent and my earlier work with subtlety and care. He writes in defense of liberalism, but not without sympathy for many of the ideals I invoke in the name of republicanism—civic virtue, encumbered selves, obligations of membership, the formative project. In fact, his republican sympathies are so expansive that I found myself unsure at times whether I could identity a fundamental disagreement.
Professor Dagger's basic objection, as I understand it, is this: I overstate the opposition between liberalism and republicanism, between autonomy and civic virtue; in drawing these distinctions too sharply, I fail to acknowledge the elements of liberalism I implicitly affirm. Professor Dagger accepts the importance of civic virtue and the formative project. But he considers it a mistake to oppose liberalism as vigorously as I do, and “particularly wrong to oppose republicanism to liberalism.” Instead, he favors a “hybrid” of liberalism and republicanism that combines autonomy and civic virtue. Any republicanism worth defending must include “a commitment to liberal principles, such as tolerance, fair play, and respect for the rights of others.”
Whether liberalism and republicanism are compatible doctrines depends on how they are conceived. At a certain level of generality, there is no necessary conflict: the liberal tradition stands for toleration and individual rights, while the republican tradition stands for government by the people. Liberal rights support republican self rule by preventing the majority from oppressing the minority, while the republican emphasis on civic virtue restrains individuals from abusing their rights and ignoring the common good.