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Liberal Freedom: Pluralism, Polarization, and Politics, Eric MacGilvray

Reviewed by Jonathan Benson
 

Dialogue across disagreement and difference is essential to a functioning polity but is increasingly seen as under threat from mounting partisan hostility and distrust. While discussions of this polarization often focus on a familiar set of narratives, Eric MacGilvray offers a fresh approach focused on a less well-examined concern: the need for a shared vocabulary of freedom.

Liberal Freedom sets itself two ambitious tasks. The first is to develop a liberal conception of freedom that can overcome the shortcomings of both a state-centered republicanism/socialism and a market-centered libertarianism/neoliberalism. Contrary to much liberal thought post-Rawls, the emerging position sees liberty, not justice, as the first political virtue. The second task is to show that this liberty-first liberalism can better address the problem of polarization than its justice-first rivals.

MacGilvray defends a plural conception of freedom focused on the social positions of persons and concerned with the competing demands of both republican and market freedom (chapter one). Republican freedom consists in the status of being a responsible agent and is concerned with defining the background conditions of action which are collectively authorized and mark out where individuals can be held responsible for their choices. Market freedom, alternatively, consists in th

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