Political Theory and Liberal Culture
This chapter examines Isaiah Berlin's political theory, with a particular focus on his argument for a kind of liberalism suited to a pluralist culture such as our own. It also asks why Berlin did not confront more directly the difficulty that all commentators have addressed: that pluralism is not particularly the natural ally of liberalism. After some biographical background, the chapter moves to Berlin as a historian of ideas, a student of distinctively Russian social and political themes, and a defender of a distinctively pluralist, anti-utopian liberalism. The division is artificial in the extreme, and the issues raised in each area of discussion are inextricably intertwined. The not particularly liberal Niccolo Machiavelli is invoked in aid of a liberal moral pluralism, as is the much more liberal Russian Alexander Herzen.
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