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Quote of the Week

February 1, 2007

Debate about political principles outside of philosophy for a long time played out a clash between socialism and capitalism, framed (oversimply) as a conflict between valuing (economic) equality and valuing (political) liberty. However, in the currect landscape, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union, the model of a constitutional democracy with regulated but competitive economic markets has come to predominate political understanding in most parts of the world, including most former Communist regimes. But this does not mean that such a framework is therefore acceptable uncritically–quite the opposite–for what political philosophy has now focused on are the fundamental evaluative presuppositions of that framework, and the perhaps controversial principles about individual citizens, social life, and sources of value that such a model presupposes. When examined at that level, liberal democracy faces questions about its very foundations, raised in a way which forces us to inquire into the ultimate legitimation of political power itself. Questions of distributive justice, though still alive in current discussions, have been upstaged by questions of basic political legitimacy.

John Christman, Social and Political Philosophy

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