The ideally competitive market in economic theory, where economic representatives are fully informed and ideally rational, is a fiction. It is not in existence, nor is it even compared to, in the real economic practice.Yet this fiction influences greatly upon modern political theory. …
The ideally competitive market in economic theory, where economic representatives are fully informed and ideally rational, is a fiction. It is not in existence, nor is it even compared to, in the real economic practice.Yet this fiction influences greatly upon modern political theory. The tempting power of the ideal market grounds on its capacity to create elegant and disarmingly easy solutions to difficult problems. We can come to see, for example, how the uncoordinated activity of economic representatives can cause socially desired states of affairs (Moore 1993, 97). In much the same manner, the ideal market gets into normative political philosophy partially because it can be showed as illuminating essential values. Defenders of the market maintain we can get to know much about individual liberty, the encouragement of mutual advantage, and efficiency in the distribution of goods by studying it (Guathier 1986, 119). However, this cardinal limitation of the market for many theorists shows its supposed insensitivity to the demands of egalitarian justice (Ashley 2003, 112). This is partly because modern market societies demonstrate a great deal of social and economic inequality. However, egalitarians have also been inclined to suppose that there is an integral flaw in the ideal of a free market society (Berkowitz 1999, 140). In traditional left-wing critiques, the market has been showed as the opponent of equality on various grounds: it results exploitation; it causes alienation; it is an enemy of genuine freedom; and it is corrosive to the bonds of community (Kautz 1995, 32). It is necessary to notice then that the leading contemporary advocates of egalitarianism, for example Ronald Dworkin (1991), violently defend the use of the ideal market as a theoretical method for the articulation of egalitarian distributive justice and liberal political morality.
On the same grounds Judith Shklar's "barebones liberalism" (Whiteside 1999, 501) actually fails to justify either values she proclaimed or liberal ideals of equality. In the end of her career, Shklar made her liberalism specific and took it in an egalitarian direction. She did so by launching skeptical issues at the certainties usually used to rationalize inequalities. While defending equality she ended up making empirical and ethical affirmations that her skepticism had expelled, providing strong proof for the conclusion that skepticism alone is insufficient for creating an egalitarian politics (Tomasi 2000, 46). In this direction of her thought, Shklar defined what Isaiah Berlin calls a "plurality of values." Like Berlin's, her way of thinking affirms "the permanent possibility of inescapable conflict between values" (Berlin 1990, 80)
Although Shklar in some way agreed with the liberalism of Hobbes and Locke, she doubts the premises of their arguments (Dagger 1997, 98). The problem is that real consent - as opposed to the consent imagined in tales of the social contract - is elusive (Plaw 2002, 267). The fact of the matter, Shklar (1986) suggests, is that liberalism rests on moral intuitions that are plural, vague and controversial. All along liberal universalism was an illusion. "To a large extent," she concludes, "it was European ethnocentrism and indifference to historical variety and change that made discourse relevant to all' seem plausible in the first place" (Shklar 1967, 278).
The difficulties befalling her "barebones liberalism" are the same as those that debilitate the "agonistic liberalism" of theorists like Joseph Raz and Isaiah Berlin (Gottfried 1999, 211). Like Shklar, these theorists propose a defense of liberty grounded in a "radical choice between incommensurables," to use John Gray's phrase (cited in Hardin 1999, 162). This is a choice that can only be settled in political competition - rather than in a putatively rational consensus. But Gray argues convincingly that accepting value pluralism does not entail privileging a liberal political ...
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