Liberty and Justice for Who?

Sunday, October 16, 2022

What Is It

Many democracies are founded on the ideals of 18th- and 19th-Century British Liberalism: the idea that human beings deserve the right to self-government because we are born free, equal, and capable of rationality. Yet Liberalism was used to justify colonialism, which deprived people around the world of the right to govern themselves. How could a political philosophy that claims to be pro-freedom be used to take freedom away from so many people? Was Liberalism misunderstood, or were its moral flaws built-in from the beginning? How can we design a political philosophy that liberates everyone, not just the citizens of a few wealthy and powerful nations? Josh and Ray talk liberally with Uday Singh Mehta from the CUNY Graduate Center, author of Liberalism and Empire: A Study in Nineteenth-Century British Liberal Thought.

Comments (4)


Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, September 16, 2022 -- 7:02 AM

Here' a salient, I hope,

Here' a salient, I hope, question for this upcoming show: what should be the response when anarchists demand liberty and justice? If liberty and justice is for all, how can the credo square that demand from someone who would just as soon advocate and pursue overthrow of a government, whose founding principles provide for such liberty? This feels like a stretch of democracy, to me.

I've read and agree to abide by the Community Guidelines
Daniel's picture

Daniel

Sunday, September 18, 2022 -- 1:48 PM

So you can feel democracy

So you can feel democracy when it stretches? If an anarchist tries it on and it's too small so that she/he stretches it out, does that mean whoever it fit in the first place can't wear it afterwards? This question derives from your indication that legitimate limits of democratic social form submit to an aesthetic or pathogenic criteria, so that people shouldn't have any more than they feel like at the time. The argument you've given, which is expressed with exemplary clarity, is that democratic participation can only be tolerated where existing structures of social, economic, and political power are not threatened by it. Similar to the arguments given in defense of limits on free-speech, one detail however remains to be clarified before undertaking an argument in opposition: What is the government, on whose founding principles liberty is provided, which you refer to above? Are you speaking of any one in particular?

I've read and agree to abide by the Community Guidelines
Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, September 23, 2022 -- 6:38 AM

Seems that you stretched the

Seems that you stretched the metaphor. Clever. But, the metaphor was not a question---it was, as provided for here, a comment. Your question was not useful.

I've read and agree to abide by the Community Guidelines
Daniel's picture

Daniel

Friday, September 23, 2022 -- 3:19 PM

Both or only one? --The one

Both or only one? --The one about your democracy sweater getting too stretched out (continuing the metaphor), or the one about what government you're referring to on whose founding principles liberty is "provided". There's a lot going on there, and no one could be justly blamed for inquiring further into the intricacies of this swirling maelstrom of ideational tempest. Your comment has two parts, the first of which is expressed grammatically as a question:
1) Because one can't rationally exercise one's liberty in the interest of dismantling state or government institutions entrusted to preserve it, (you say "overthrow" which is inconsistent with anarchist theory, since that implies setting up a new state which replaces the old), a question arises as to an "appropriate response" in the event of such behaviors.
2) The second part is in a way more interesting, because it expresses aesthetic criteria for social organization-appropriateness. And a question arises here also: Is there a democratic aesthetics? If collective participation is singled out as an essential component, must one "feel" like she/he is participating in order it to be democratic?

The response I've offered above is bifurcated accordingly:
1)' From the first part the implication is drawn that democracy is acceptable only where it doesn't threaten the existence of the state. And,
2)' is there any one particular state which fits your description of a liberty-protectorate?

Because you've answered neither, it can be safely assumed that the assessment of uselessness applies to both, so that a third must be posed by combining them in an attempt to reduce their uselessness: If one feels actively engaged in democratic processes by organizing around political options whose range is determined by non-democratic forces (e.g. multinational wealth, et al.), then does a democratic aesthetics in that individual case constitute remedial compensation for lacking true democratic form? For your claim seems to indicate that if you can feel like you've got a democracy, then you don't need one. Is that about right?

I've read and agree to abide by the Community Guidelines