Robert Jubb, "Whose Republicanism, Whose Liberty"

This paper tries to illustrate the importance of taking the diversity of the republican tradition seriously by looking at the work of probably the most prominent contemporary neo-republican, Philip Pettit. Pettit leans on the authority of the republican tradition when he describes contemporary neo-republicanism as reviving an “ideal” that, despite having “shaped many of the most important institutions… we associate with democracy”, “has not been given enough attention in contemporary debates”. Yet partly as a result of its neglect and misunderstanding of the republican tradition, Pettit’s republicanism is paternalistic, elitist, antidemocratic, based on an implausible theory of liberty, and inconsistent. Although greater attention to the republican tradition is not necessary to diagnose Pettit’s problems, and of course is not sufficient to put them right, a better understanding of the purposes republicans expected particular institutional arrangements to serve and of conceptual apparatus they used to frame and justify them would nonetheless help to avoid his difficulties. Pettit’s failure to absorb insights from Rousseau is used to demonstrate this.

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