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Joseph Raz on Liberalism - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 416
Liberalism/Raz/Weinstein: Contemporary political theory's historical myopia has consequently made Joseph Raz's perfectionist liberalism seem more anomalous than, in fact, it is. Though Stephen Mulhall and Adam Swift are correct in concluding that Raz 'transcends' the rivalry between liberalism and communitarianism, they overemphasize his originality (1996(1): 250).
Perfectionist liberalism: Raz's perfectionist liberalism is refurbished new liberalism but with some differences. For instance, Raz distinguishes autonomy, a seminal value requiring serious political attention, from self- realization, which he holds is merely one variety of autonomy. >Self-realization/Hobhouse.
Self-realization/Raz: Whereas a self-realizing person develops all of his capacities to their full potential, an autonomous person merely develops 'a conception of himself, and his actions are sensitive to his past'. In 'embracing goals and commitments, in coming to care about one thing or another', such persons 'give shape' to their lives, though not necessarily according to a unified plan as with Hobhouse (Raz, 1986(2): 375, 387) (...).
Value pluralism: Moreover for Raz unlike new liberals, autonomy entails value pluralism because goods and virtues are incommensurable, often forcing us to trade them off, 'relinquishing one good for the sake of another' (1986(2): And, tragically, we have to make trade-offs because (though Raz fails to argue why) the menu of goods and virtues available to us is largely socially determined (1986(2): 366, 398-9) (...).
Goals/Raz: Notwithstanding these differences, for Raz autonomous agents nevertheless 'identify' with their choices and remain 'loyal' to them, just like new liberal self-realizing agents. Second, in shaping their lives, autonomous agents, like self-realizing agents, don 't arbitrarily recreate themselves in spite of their social circumstances.
RazVsNietzsche: Brute Nietzschean self-creation is impossible, for we are all born into communities presupposing our values. At best, acting autonomously transforms slightly, or reconfirms these
values selectively (1986(2): 382, 387—8). >Perfectionism/Raz.


1. Mulhall, Stephen and Adam Swift (1996) Liberals and Communitarians. Oxford: Blackwell.
2. Raz, Joseph (1986) The Morality of Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Weinstein, David 2004. „English Political Theory in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Raz, Joseph
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2022-08-12
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