Being a liberal does not mean a person is a member of a liberal group or party; conversely, he or she is supposed to hold certain values. According to Paul Kennedy’s guest Alan Wolfe, a professor of political science and the director of The Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, liberalism is “the most appropriate philosophy in our time” (Wolfe 2009) in the sense that, as a notion,it embodies the idea of autonomy, which means self-governance. That is to say, people themselves can control their lives, can change by making appropriate decision for themselves. However, they would not be really free to lead an autonomous life unless they are equal. Equality is therefore a fundamental ideal, particularly in the United States. Both autonomy and equality, precisely equality ofopportunities, are two beliefs of liberalism: the existence of the one is out of the question without the existence of the other.
In his book The Future of Liberalism, Alan Wolfe evokes a liberal tradition that makes reference to some of the 18th century figures, such as Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant, and others of the 20th century, such as John Stuart Mill and some of his contemporaries. He,therefore, equated two different eras to talk about two contexts: American context and that of the World of Enlightenment, in which liberalism was developed. He did so to persuade his readers “that classical liberalism, which believes in the market and individual freedom, it is fundamentally different from something called modern liberalism” (W. 2009). Furthermore, he declares that the ideals whichmotivated some of the 18th century figures, such as Adam Smith, are the same as those that are motivating others in the 21st century. Yet, during his interview, Wolfe points to the fact that, in his book, he “tried to show the fundamental underlined assumption that human nature and human progress that[sic] underline all liberalisms” (W.2009), and, if there is any hint to the distinction betweenmodern liberalism and classical liberalism, it is hazardous. Still, those distinctions do exist within liberal tradition, but Wolfe thinks “the liberal tradition that adopted that distinction, including liberal thinkers, […] happened [to be] wrong” (W.2009). Wolfe alludes that in one of Isaiah Berlin’s essays about negative liberty and positive liberty, He advocates “the positive conception ofliberty, not freedom from, but freedom to - to lead one prescribed form of life – which the adherents of the negative notion represent as being, at times, not better than a specious disguise for brutal tyranny”(Berlin 2000). The latter was so shocked by the experience of totalitarianism that he reacted against all forms of directing human action towards any purpose with chosen ends, which, according toWolfe, shouldn’t occur since liberals ought to guide their fates. Hence, he argued that there is one basic liberal tradition and only one based on autonomy and equality.
While being interviewed, Wolfe doesn’t differentiate the terms autonomy and liberty. On the contrary, he uses them synonymously since “the term autonomy really gives the best meaning of what [they] were talking about,because liberty means a sense of freedom from” (W.2009). Moreover, he argued that autonomy gets that valuable notion of self-governance of oneself, which, to him, really matters. In other words, “liberty or freedom establishes a condition, but autonomy tells […] what the condition has been established for, it’s the goal, and that’s why [he] prefers to use the word autonomy” (W.2009). In his book TheFuture of Liberalism, Alan Wolf demonstrates how some of the late part of the 18th and early part of the 19th century writers when they talked about autonomy they had in mind that authority governing at that time. It was the great enemy of autonomy because it dictates “how we ought to lead our lives” (W.2009), which is incompatible with some of liberalism principles. In fact, autonomy requires a...
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