The Unorthodox Liberalism of Joseph Raz

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In The Morality of Freedom, Joseph Raz has challenged the anti-perfectionism of orthodox liberal political theory and proposed an alternative form of liberalism based on perfectionist moral premises. Raz maintain that his theory of political morality qualifies as a liberal theory in view of the pride of place it gives autonomy considered as an intrinsic human good. Nevertheless, autonomy, according to Raz, is valuable only when exercised in the pursuit of morally upright ends. The principal point of contact between Raz's theory and leading anti-perfectionist versions of liberalism is his endorsement of a qualified version ofj. S. Mill's harm principle. Raz argues that, though the law can and should discourage victimless immortalities by noncoercive means, it should not criminalize victimless wrongdoing. The article argues that Raz's claims are strongest where his substantive position is weakest. Perfectionist conservatives and anti-perfectionist liberals are correct to maintain that Razian perfectionism cannot supply a ground for rejecting coercive legislation to uphold public morality as a matter of principle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-671
Number of pages20
JournalReview of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1991

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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