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Can social justice, economic redistribution and voluntariness fit into a single conception of liberty? Pettit versus Hobhouse.

Dimova-Cookson, Maria (2013) 'Can social justice, economic redistribution and voluntariness fit into a single conception of liberty? Pettit versus Hobhouse.', International journal of social economics., 40 (12). pp. 1108-1122.


Purpose – The paper aims to examine and compare two understandings of liberty that have dealt successfully with the normative and analytical challenge of reconciling liberty with social justice: Philip Pettit's republican liberty as nondomination and Hobhouse's concept of liberty as personal growth available to all. The paper focuses on one particular question: how successful each of these thinkers has been in resolving the tension between voluntariness of action, implicit in the “primary” meaning of liberty (as defined by T.H. Green), with the often heavy demands of social justice policies aiming at social equality and entailing economic redistribution. Design/methodology/approach – The paper analyses two theories of liberty by spelling out the difficulties they aimed to deal with and by assessing the level of success they have achieved in resolving these difficulties, with the objective to demonstrate their originality in the broader context of conceptualising liberty. Findings – The paper criticises Pettit's republican theory from a new perspective and develops an original critique of it; it spells out the achievements of Hobhouse's understanding of liberty in a new light – related to the specific critique of Pettit's republican liberty; and by spelling out the analytical and normative achievements of Hobhouse's liberty as “personal growth available to all” it offers a viable concept of liberty that fits with contemporary conceptualisations but overcomes their shortcomings. Research limitations/implications – As the project is based on analysing texts that have been easy to access, there have not been significant research limitations. Practical implications – The two theories of freedom assessed here (the contemporary republican and the “new liberal”) entail some subtle, but potentially significant differences in public policy implications. While both can justify extended state action, the latter could tailor specific policies in a manner more mindful of the well-being of all parties, even those on the wrong side of social justice. Originality/value – The paper makes an original contribution in three areas: contemporary republican theory of liberty, Hobhouse's theory of liberty and conceptualisations of liberty in general.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This article is © Emerald Group Publishing and permission has been granted for this version to appear here Emerald does not grant permission for this article to be further copied/distributed or hosted elsewhere without the express permission from Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Date accepted:24 June 2013
Date deposited:24 April 2017
Date of first online publication:14 October 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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