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Liberalism and the Politics of Compulsion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2007

University College, Oxford.


This review presents a critical account of the most powerful critique of liberal political thought to have emerged in recent years: a critique it calls the ‘politics of compulsion’. Drawing on the work of a wide range of critics of contemporary liberalism, this article contends that although those who advance this critique are divided in many ways they are nonetheless held together by a series of powerful descriptive and normative challenges to liberal political philosophy as it has developed since the publication of John Rawls's Political Liberalism. The article further demonstrates that most of these challenges centre on the place of coercive power in modern political life and suggests that, although these challenges should not undermine liberals' commitment to their central normative claims, they do nonetheless provide an essential rejoinder to some of liberalism's more complacent assumptions.

Review Article
© 2007 Cambridge University Press

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