November 20, 2011

Open Thread: Is there a Big Idea in Modern Political Philsophy that's Not Somewhere in the Work of John Locke, Edmund Burke, or Jean-Jacques Rousseau?

Carroll Andrew Morse

I can't think of a body for this post that makes clearer what's in the title.

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"I can't think of a body for this post that makes clearer what's in the title."


Posted by: Monique at November 20, 2011 9:02 PM

Not traditionally thought of as a philosopher, but the natural consequences of Joseph Schumpeter's work?

Creative Destruction in technological innovation and the need for broader freedoms in intellectual property law to allow for the full flourishing of an innovative society?

The need for assisting (retraining, retooling) losers in a market environment, so as to stabilize the whole ecosystem? Maybe that part is easily derivative. But the rest?

Posted by: jparis at November 20, 2011 11:18 PM

No, I don't think so. All a philosopher really needs to know is human nature. I regard that as a constant. For those who would say "this is a different era" I suggest that is only a term for "change". I think human responses to change are well known. What that particular change might be is not significant.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at November 21, 2011 7:32 AM

Unfortunately, John Rawls.

Posted by: Edward Brynes at November 21, 2011 8:09 AM


If you take Schumpeter’s strictly political ideas on democracy -- as separate from his work on the combination of politics and economics -- they center on the role of institutions. For instance, here’s his definition of democracy:

That institutional arrangement for arriving at political decisions in which individuals acquire the power to decide by means of a competitive struggle for the people’s vote.
Now, I’m not saying Schumpeter was a conscious Burkean, but what did he add to the ideas that are traced to Burke about the importance of institutions (even imperfect ones)?

Posted by: Andrew at November 21, 2011 3:04 PM


I’ve had a few discussions with people who know what they’re talking about with Rawls (which doesn’t mean that I do), but isn’t Rawls’ project to theoretically reverse-engineer the outcomes that liberal utilitarianism doesn’t seem to be able to get to on its own? In other words, he’s very much in the spirit of Locke when it comes to the idea of building everything up from a minimal set of restrictions on individuals, but he wants to begin from a slightly less stark view of the individual than Locke did, and assume that an innate desire to pursue certain virtues is fundamental? I could have this wrong.

Posted by: Andrew at November 21, 2011 3:06 PM

I was thinking of the second of Rawls' two principles of justice: "Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the advantage of the least advantaged, consistent with the just saving principle, and ..." The requirement (a) seems to me non-traditional. It requires very extensive government intervention in the economy.

Posted by: Edward Brynes at November 22, 2011 4:30 PM
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