Interest Pluralisms and the Erasure of Social Identity

  • Katherine Smits

Abstract

Moral pluralism has dominated liberal political philosophy, as we saw in the work of Rawls and other political liberals, but political scientists who take a more empirical approach tend to define pluralities rather in terms of interests. Both of these varieties of pluralism are, as we have seen, derived from Mill, although neither takes identity groups seriously, except for nationality, to which they assign a special role. In this chapter I trace the development of interest pluralism as the heir to the post-Millian rejection of identity. Divorced from its role in shaping personality, group membership had come to be understood by the close of the nineteenth century as the collective and voluntary expression of the interests of existing individuals, already fundamentally constructed by national membership. In these terms, group membership invoked older concerns in political philosophy concerning the status and power of factional interests.

Keywords

Depression Coherence Posit Arena Defend 

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Notes

  1. 1.
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    This suggests that the persistence of the underlying liberal concept of the person as infinite consumer, despite what Macpherson has called the developmental democracy phase of the nineteenth century, might be due not only to the liberal commitment to capitalist economic relations, as Macpherson suggests, but also to the simultaneous development of the idea of class interest. This latter idea was paradoxically, of course, part of the liberal critique of unrestrained capitalism. See C.B. Macpherson, Democratic Theory: Essays in Retrieval (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973), 32–3.Google Scholar
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© Katherine Smits 2005

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  • Katherine Smits

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