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Value Pluralism: The Paradoxes of Freedom and the Challenges for Democratic Government

A new book by a former Clinton White House official examines the questions: Why does it make sense to be a liberal? Is there more than one kind of liberal? Are liberals consistent with their approach to religious freedom? How does a liberal accommodate the freedom of those who are illiberal? What are the implications of liberal pluralism for policy, practice and governance? How does this strengthen democracy and civil society?

In his new book Liberal Pluralism: The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice (Cambridge University Press, July 2002), political philosopher William Galston draws on his experience as President Clinton’s deputy assistant for domestic policy to defend a version of value pluralism that was first espoused by Isaiah Berlin for political theory and practice. Against the contentions of John Gray, Joseph Raz, and others, Galston argues that value pluralism undergirds a kind of liberal politics that gives great weight to the ability of individuals and groups to live their lives in accordance with their deepest beliefs.

Galston’s defense is not libertarian or “classical-liberal.” Rather, he carefully crafts a place for citizenship and civic virtue and for education directed toward their cultivation. This account of liberal pluralism has implications for political deliberation and decision-making, for the design of public institutions, and for the division of legitimate authority among government, religious institutions, civil society, parents and families, and individuals. Join us for a panel discussion, moderated by E.J. Dionne, on the implications of value pluralism for public theology, civil society and public policy.

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