The culture of liberalism and the virtue of ‘balance’

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This article argues for a virtue-based account of the value and legitimacy of liberalism in increasingly multicultural societies. In contrast to the recent trend to seek consensus and stability through an overlapping ‘political’ consensus, this article argues for a more ‘comprehensive’ view of the attraction of liberalism in a culturally diverse world. This attraction resides in a particular view of the properly constituted ‘self’, able to appreciate and navigate a range of competing ethical demands, coming from a wide range of cultural sources. In support of this virtue-based picture of liberalism, this article seeks to draw out the tacit importance of such an account in two ostensibly different liberal theorists, John Rawls and Michael Walzer, both of whom rely on the virtue of psychological and moral ‘balance’. The article then argues that this sense of virtue as balance is more attractive to non-liberal cultures than a narrow conception of ‘political’ liberalism, and that it therefore offers a more promising basis for cultural cohesion than a more basic appeal to ‘political’ liberalism.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Political Theory
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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