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3 - Liberty and Equality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Arthur Ripstein
Affiliation:
University of Toronto
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Summary

More than two decades ago, Ronald Dworkin described equality as “a popular but mysterious political ideal.” More recently he described it as the “endangered species” of political ideals. Yet both its claim and its mystery persist. It is mysterious because its demands are not always clear and its relation to other values seldom is. A long tradition in political philosophy supposes that the ideas of liberty and equality conflict irreconcilably. The most we can hope for, on this view, is for some acceptable compromise between them. Dworkin's writings about equality hold out the more appealing prospect that, far from being opposed values, liberty and equality are inseparable.

BACKGROUND

Normative political philosophy had no real place in the English-speaking world in the middle part of the twentieth century. Such political philosophy as there was consisted in the study of great thinkers of the past or conceptual analyses of political concepts. Isaiah Berlin's “Two Concepts of Liberty” sought to clarify the nature of liberty and its relation to other values, arguing that liberty was one among several political values. Equality was another, and they were always potentially in conflict. Berlin cautioned against what he saw as the dreadful costs of overlooking this conflict and pretending that values could be integrated into a seamless web. Citizens and politicians must not try to deny or evade the conflict between those values but must instead face up to the choices between them that must be made.

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Ronald Dworkin , pp. 82 - 108
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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