In Circles

In Circles

E.M. Forster introduces his Aspects of the Novel by proposing that “we are to visualize the English novelists… as seated together in a room, a circular room. . .all writing their novels simultaneously.” Likewise, Joseph Schwartz summons up theorists of what he calls the “radical” tradition: five principals—Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Lenin, and Arendt—surrounded by a penumbra of contemporary scribblers, all political theorists, all North American, and many engaged in the so-called “liberal-communitarian” debate. His purpose is to pinpoint a central flaw in the “overly canonical radical theoretical tradition” (he means, of course, the radical left), namely a hostility to “the very conditions that give rise to democratic politics—a plurality of social interests and diverse conceptions of the good life.” Beyond the penumbra is a select outer circle of contemporary political theorists who see what the world outside the circular room requires, openly embracing “social pluralism” and a relatively autonomous civil society but also liberalism’s commitment to individual liberties and rights.

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Lima