The Possibilities of Interpretive Liberalism


  • Mark Tushnet



The author presents a survey of normative interpretive approaches to liberalism. He begins with a discussion of the attractions of, and our demands on, an interpretive approach to political theory. It is suggested that interpretive approaches to liberalism run up against many difficulties. The reformist interpretive approach is examined and some general problems with the "republican tradition" version of interpretive normative theory are illustrated. A second interpretive approach which accepts society's practices but also draws on systematic political philosophy is discussed but the author remains sceptical of its merits. A related interpretive strategy for purifying existing practices is to contrast them in an historical sense and examine the "overlapping consensus". There are objections to this as well. The author concludes that none of the strategies surveyed give precise enough guidance in resolving current controversies in liberalism and reflects on the result of this finding.