Liberal Realism: Political Theory in an Age of Insecurity

WRAPP is currently working on a project entitled ‘Liberal Realism: Political Theory in an Age of Insecurity’. The primary aim of the project is to explore collaboratively the possibility of developing a new style of liberal political theory, liberal realism, better-placed than existing accounts to acknowledge the profound moral conflict and insecurity which characterises modern democratic societies in our age of insecurity.

Much recent contemporary liberal political philosophy has taken place against the assumed social backdrop of peace, stability, and consensus about liberal values such as toleration, equality and freedom. Terrorist events in New York, Madrid, Bali, and London, and the increased awareness of dissent from liberal values both within and beyond liberal societies have cast significant doubt on the validity of this assumption. As such, contemporary liberal theory now finds itself without the intellectual resources necessary to understand properly or address the most pressing political problems of our time and runs the risk of seeming irrelevant or redundant in the new context of insecurity and fundamental disagreement. A new approach to liberal theorising which is compatible with an acknowledgement of profound moral conflict and insecurity and better-placed to offer reflection and recommendation on the political problems of this changed context is very much in order. We will seek to provide a more practically appropriate theoretical framework in which theorising about pressing political issues such as the balance between liberty and security, the ethical status of torture, and the normative foundations of liberalism, can take place.

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