Interest Pluralisms and the Erasure of Social Identity

  • Katherine Smits


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.


Group Membership Trade Union Political Theory National Identity Class Membership 
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© Katherine Smits 2005

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  • Katherine Smits

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