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9 - Liberalism and the Globalization of Ethics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 September 2009

Chris Brown
Affiliation:
Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
William M. Sullivan
Affiliation:
The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education
Will Kymlicka
Affiliation:
Queen's University, Ontario
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Summary

Introduction: Many Liberalisms

When the words ‘liberal’ and ‘liberalism’ entered the broad political discourse of Europe in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, it was as terms of abuse; the association was with libertinism – when Don Giovanni gives the toast ‘Viva la libertà’ in the Finale to Act I of Mozart's opera it seems unlikely he had any specifically political principle in mind. Soon, as is often the way, the terms came to be accepted by those who advocated a programme of personal freedom that encompassed civil and political rights for the individual instead of, or sometimes perhaps as well as, the liberation from conventional sexual mores toasted by the Don. This programme remains the core of the liberal conception of the world. In the helpful formulation of Will Kymlicka:

Liberals demand a substantial realm of personal freedom – including freedom of conscience, speech, association, occupation, and, more recently, sexuality – which the state should not intrude upon except to protect others from harm.

In pursuit of this realm of personal freedom, liberals generally favour constitutional forms of government, the separation of powers and the rule of law, with representative, but not usually direct, democracy, and are broadly sceptical of accounts of politics that are based around the promotion of any particular conception of the Good (except that conception of the Good that involves not having an overriding conception of the Good).

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Chapter
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The Globalization of Ethics
Religious and Secular Perspectives
, pp. 151 - 170
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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