Contemporary liberalism combines ideas from this historical tradition to make a political theory that places at its heart the equal treatment of each person. Paul Kelly provides an overview of the basic building blocks of contemporary liberalism – contractarianism, impartiality, justice and freedom, – and introduces students to the ideas of its key theorists John Rawls, Brian Barry and Ronald Dworkin. He goes on to consider three major challenges facing liberalism today and concludes with a defence of the continuing relevance of political liberalism in the contemporary world.
1 Introduction: What is Liberalism?.
2 The Sources of Liberal Equality.
3 The Social Contract.
4 Liberalism and Liberty.
5 Liberalism and Equality.
6 How Political is Political Liberalism.
7 False Neutrality and Ethnocentrism.
8 Liberalism the State and Beyond.
––Professor Brian Barry, Lieber Professor of Political Philosophy, Columbia University
′This is a first–rate introduction to the philosophy and politics of contemporary liberal thought. Kelly offers more than a careful and concise statement of liberal egalitarianism. He also traces its historical roots, explains its many attractions, and rebuts fashionable but misplaced objections to it."
––Dr Matthew Clayton, Department of Politics & International Studies,
University of Warwick
′This accessible little book in Polity′s "Key Concepts" series is a broad introduction to recent work in political theory. As such, it provides useful background for other writing on liberalism. But it is no dry textbook; it has a distinct point of view. Kelly, who is a professor of political theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, defends a particular type of liberalism: egalitarian liberalism, which he believes has two core principles. Philosophically, it is committed to "the basic substantive value of equal personhood"; politically, it attempts to secure the "rights and economic resources necessary to protect equal personhood."
′Kelly′s liberal heroes are a broadly Americanized bunch –– (the early) John Rawls, Ronald Dworkin, and Brian Barry –– and he defends his heroes from attacks on both the left and the right. To those on the right who argue that the egalitarian liberal′s emphasis on equality unduly restricts our freedom to accumulate wealth, Kelly replies that property is not a pre–political right that overrides the concerns of social justice. To those on the left who claim that liberal egalitarianism is merely cultural imperialism in disguise, Kelly distinguishes between respecting a culture′s practices –– which clearly makes sense –– and saying that we can never criticize such practices in light of general principles –– which is self–defeating. Liberal principles avoid lapsing into moral subjectivism, Kelly says. It′s time for liberals to stand up and articulate them.′
–– Michael P. Lynch, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 22, 2005, page 22. Lynch is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Connecticut.
′[C]risp and elegant defence of liberalism′––Times Higher Education Supplement
′Liberalism offers an erudite and stimulating defence of liberalism as both a philosophical and a political project, and is a valuable addition to the existing scholarship.′––The Philosophical Quarterly