About This SIte
Philosophy and Civil Society
1. Liberal political theory as a form of civic culture
2. Civic culture as a limited,
countervailing form of culture
1. Political, not metaphysical. In his book, Political Liberalism, Rawls defines the cognitive status of modern liberal political theory. According to Rawls, liberal political philosophy is properly understood not as a set of claims about the nature of things, but rather as a body of doctrine addressed to citizens of modern constitutional democracies for the purpose of building consensus on the principles of liberal justice. This Rawlsian conception of liberal political theory should be radicalized and extended to encompass the entire body of ideas or form of culture that we associate with the European Enlightenment. This means that we must begin to conceive of liberal moral and political "theory" (along with its metaphysical and epistemological underpinnings) explicitly in terms of its rhetorical function, as a set of discourses designed to render intelligible and to motivate the development of the capacities proper to liberal democratic citizenship -- specifically, the capacities for civic freedom and civic justice. In short, we must begin to rethink liberal political philosophy as a component of liberal democratic civic culture, a particularistic form of culture whose function is to produce the attitudes and dispositions required for full membership in Western civil societies.
2. Partial, not comprehensive. In Political Liberalism, Rawls emphasizes the limited scope or range of applicability of liberal moral and political ideals -- that those ideals apply only to the part and not to the whole of life. This limitation of scope should also be radicalized and extended to encompass the entire "Enlightenment project." This means that, once we have conceived of liberal moral and political "theory" (along with its metaphysical and epistemological underpinnings) explicitly as a component of a particularistic form of culture, we must then clearly identify the specific and particularistic domain of culture to which it belongs -- namely, civic culture. Further, we must arrive at a new understanding of the limited scope and function of this domain of culture and of how it is related to other domains of culture -- above all, those defined by comprehensive worldviews that shape and nurture totalizing ethnic and religious ways of life.
consensus. In Political Liberalism, Rawls describes the central role
played in a liberal democracy by an overlapping consensus (of comprehensive doctrines or
totalizing world views) supportive of liberal democratic moral ideals and institutions.
This Rawlsian notion of an overlapping consensus
should be radicalized and explored fully with respect to the unique cultural demands that
the achievement of such an overlapping consensus makes upon individual citizens. To
maintain an overlapping cultural consensus supportive of liberal democratic moral ideals
and institutions, citizens must develop an identity capable of tolerating extreme cultural
"The Culture of Citizenship is provocative, path-breaking scholarship. In it,
Thomas Bridges presents liberal political philosophy as in retreat from its traditional
confidence in the 'modernist rhetoric of pure theory.' Instead, Bridges argues, figures
such as John Rawls are inching toward a 'rhetorical turn' toward context, culture and
history, a direction this book seeks to accelerate. To this end, the book explores the
often surprising and deeply challenging implications this rhetorical turn holds for the
philosophy of politics and culture."
"Bridges joins commentators such as William Galston (Liberal Purposes) and
Ronald Beiner (What's the Matter with Liberalism?) in probing the weaknesses of
modernist liberalism. Taking his bearings from John Rawls's Political Liberalism,
Bridges criticizes Enlightenment-based metaphysical foundations for individual citizenship
and autonomy because this universalism has implicitly denigrated particularistic cultural
ideals and worldviews. More importantly, it has lessened both the intelligibility of
liberal ideals to particularistic cultural communities, and also the possibility that
these communities will "succeed in discovering within their own local cultural
traditions motivational resources supportive of the pursuit of the civic good."
Bridges suggests that we "de-totalize" the concept of civic freedom by
recognizing that it applies only to a part of life. Civic freedom requires individual
commitment to particularistic life ideals, and also the affirmation of their possible
revocability both by oneself and by others. The tension between simultaneous commitment
and detachment provides the space for civic freedom, and it is this narrative imagination
that it is the task of civic education to cultivate. Bridges incorporates creativity as
well as intellect in this thoughtful and provocative project."
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION: Salvaging Liberalism from the Wreck of the Enlightenment
CHAPTER I. Modernist Liberalism and Its Consequences
CHAPTER II. Rawls and the Shaping of a Postmodern Liberalism
CHAPTER III. The De-Totalization of Politics
CHAPTER IV. The Liberation of Desire
CHAPTER V. God and the Space of Civic Discourse
1. To access an HTML version of the entire text of The Culture of Citizenship in a single file (about 900k -- needs a fast connection), click HERE. To access an HTML version of the entire text by chapter (much smaller files and faster download), click HERE.
2. To download an e-book version (about 250k) of the entire text of The Culture of Citizenship, click HERE. (NOTE: You must be using Internet Explorer 5.x and have the Microsoft Reader installed on your computer in order to read this file. To download the Microsoft Reader, click HERE. NOTE: Netscape Navigator will not install the file properly in your e-book library and you will not be able to read it with Microsoft Reader.)
3. To download a .pdf version (about 475k) of the entire text of The Culture of Citizenship, click HERE. (NOTE: you must have the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to read this file. To download the latest version of the Acrobat Reader, click HERE.)
4. To download a text version (about 600k) of the entire text of The Culture of
Citizenship, click HERE.
Page last edited: 01/20/02
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Thomas Bridges. All rights reserved.
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