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Pluralism and Pessimism: A Central Theme in the Political Thought of Stuart Hampshire

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Stuart Hampshire's political thought is an important but often overlooked contribution to contemporary debates concerning the nature and permanence of plural and conflicting values. In its combination of a pessimistic view of the limits of politics with a deep respect for pluralism and disagreement Hampshire's thought can be regarded as a significant version of 'the Liberalism of fear'. This is grounded in a belief that the inherited innocence of moral and political thinking has been undermined by our experience of the horrors of the twentieth century. Hampshire's response is to propose a minimal form of proceduralism that contrasts with Rawls's political liberalism. Hampshire offers a criticism of the moralism that characterizes much modern political philosophy without advocating a stark realism.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2009


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