solum law Essay

Submitted By maddd89
Words: 8622
Pages: 35

Chicago-Kent Law Review
Volume 66
Issue 1 Symposium on Classical Philosophy and the
American Constitutional Order

Article 8

January 1990

Pluralism and Modernity
Lawrence B. Solum

Follow this and additional works at:
Part of the Law Commons
Recommended Citation
Lawrence B. Solum, Pluralism and Modernity, 66 Chi.-Kent. L. Rev. 93 (1990).
Available at:

This Article is brought to you for free and open access by Scholarly Commons @ IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. It has been accepted for inclusion in Chicago-Kent Law Review by an authorized administrator of Scholarly Commons @ IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. For more information, please contact





This essay considers the claim that liberalism offers an impoverished and narrow vision of human association. One of the classic statements of this claim is found in the early Marx. He wrote that the freedom provided by liberalism "is that of a man treated as an isolated monad and withdrawn into himself."' This conception of freedom, he continued, "is not based on the union of man with man, but on the separation of man from man. ' ' 2 Marx's critique is echoed in contemporary political philosophy. Alasdair MacIntyre writes that "Modem politics is civil war carried on by other means."'3 Michael Sandel suggests that the alternative to the liberal regime is strong community, a form of social arrangement that is "constitutive of the shared self-understandings of the participants." '4
These critics of liberalism share a picture of the liberal regime as a social order that favors a particular conception of the human good: an atomistic, individualistic conception that destroys the social basis for community and solidarity.5
Ronald Beiner, in his paper, The LiberalRegime,6 has developed the
critique of liberal political theory from a neo-Aristotelian perspective.
He offers a powerful elaboration of the claim that liberalism produces an impoverished ethos or way of life and a strong defense of an Aristotelian alternative. I agree with much in this critique. Certainly, Aristotle's moral and political theory offers insights into contemporary debates in constitutional theory and jurisprudence," but there are two aspects of
* Professor of Law and William M. Rains Fellow, Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount
University, Los Angeles, California. I owe thanks to Ron Beiner, Shelley Marks, and Sam Pillsbury for their remarks on earlier versions of this essay.
1. K. MARx, On the Jewish Question, in SELECTED WRITINGS 53 (D. McLellan ed. 1977).
2. Id.
3. A. MAcINTYRE, AFIER VIRTUE (2d ed. 1984).
5. See Solum, Faith and Justice, 39 DEPAUL L. REV. 1083, 1087 (1990).
6. Beiner, The Liberal Regime, 66 CHi. KENT L. REV. 73 (1990).
7. See generally ARISTOTLE, NiCOMACHEAN ETHIcs (W. Ross trans., J. Urrnson, revisions) and POLITICS (B. Jowett & J. Barnes trans.) in 2 THE COMPLETE WORKS OF ARISTOTLE (J. Barnes ed. 1984). [Hereinafter all citations to these works will refer to the pagination of the Bekker edition or to book and chapter numbers.]
8. See Solum, Virtues and Voices, 66 CHI.-KENT L. REv. 111 (1990); Solum, The Virtues and
Vices of a Judge: An Aristotelian Guide to JudicialSelection, 61 S. CAL. L. REV. 1735 (1988); Bros-


(Vol. 66:93

Beiner's paper with which I will take issue. First, I disagree with the claim that Aristotle's moral and political theory is consistent with the fact of pluralism. Second, I take issue with the charge that liberalism is defective because it entails an impoverished ethos. Before exploring these points of contention, let me introduce the concepts that are fundamental to the debate.
Beiner develops his critique of…