Contemporary liberal political theory is now faced with the task of reconciling its attachment to traditional liberal political commitments with visions of the self and the community that increasingly emphasize creativity and contingency. If the principles that guide liberal common life are simply historically specific cultural creations, how can defenders of those principles respond to the challenges of very different cultures, and on what grounds might they resist overthrow by energetic and creative individuals within? Recently, Rorty (1989) has offered a blueprint for such a safeguard by insisting that creative energy, represented most dramatically by the work and the figure of Nietzsche, be privatized, leaving the public realm responsible for alleviating suffering, thus pursuing the political goals articulated by John Stuart Mill. The creative association of Mill and Nietzsche thus comes to define postmodern liberal theory. This solution is more provocative than resolutive, however. For Mill and Nietzsche, who intersect on a remarkable range of issues, raise, separately and together, serious questions about the separability of private from public, creativity from culture. Even more significantly, Mill’s and Nietzsche’s concerns unite to reveal some of the most promising and problematic aspects of that form of liberalism that has come to be called postmodern.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science