1 Cultural participation in Western liberal democracies

In our Western world, freedom is also unequally divided. Certainly, in general everyone has a constitutionally protected personal realm within which he can go his own way undisturbed by others. But the material and non-material conditions for everyone to do something with this freedom are not equal. Not all citizens of the former ‘Free West’ have the opportunity to develop their capacities fully and be really master of their own life.

Over the last century, attempts to change this situation have concentrated on the material level. And not without success: prosperity has grown enormously and mutual differences have become smaller, even if in recent decades in countries like the United States, Great Britain and the Netherlands that levelling has been again reversed. The cultural aspects of individual freedom, certainly just as essential, have received less attention. After the Second World War, for the first time various Western social institutions, political parties and authorities set themselves seriously the goal of levelling somewhat the great social inequality in the capacity to participate in culture. However, to date, the cultural dissemination policy to this end has not turned out to be very successful. This applies to the dissemination of art, of literature, of knowledge — of everything which makes a culture into civilization, and, as shall be argued, freedom into autonomy.

Empirical research, which will be extensively examined in chapter seven, points out again and again that cultural participation is declining in absolute figures or at best is remaining at the same level. It would also appear that people from the lower classes are turning away from culture. Increasingly it is the higher, better educated and salaried strata which profit from the existing art subsidies. Of current visitors to theatres, concert halls and museums, two thirds to three quarters have followed a higher professional or university education. Research also shows that the average time spent on reading books, journals and newspapers during the last four decades has declined sharply and that reading has also increasingly become an almost exclusive activity of an economic and cultural elite. People with a relatively low educational level born after 1950, thus after the introduction and expansion of television, have largely abandoned the written word.

This inequality in being able to participate in culture is not an accident. Although nowadays most people have had a better education than their parents, social educational inequality has hardly declined. Children from higher milieus still have considerably better and longer education than children from lower socio-economic classes and therefore get more opportunities to participate in culture. This inequality is not exclusive either. Research shows that a social ‘dichotomy’ within a number of Western societies has become more than a theoretical possibility. For example, paid work is increasingly carried out by a small group of people in the prime of life, between thirty and fifty years old. This privileged group have better incomes, have had higher educations, therefore come mainly from the same social milieu, make the most use of all kinds of cultural facilities and subsidies, are most often members of political parties, action groups and pressure groups and therefore exercise the strongest political influence and they are people who still read and visit museums, concerts and theatrical performances.

In brief, it is difficult to maintain that in Western liberal democracies, since the end of the Second World War for example, there has been or continues to be a levelling in the field of the cultural aspects of individual freedom. Even growing differences are imaginable.

2 Positive and negative freedom

Although the material and non-material aspects of freedom are related, the division of knowledge and culture cannot be seen separately from the distribution of work, incomes and power, this books deals primarily with the cultural dimension of individual freedom. The reason for this, as has already been remarked, is that it has received relatively little attention in politics and also in scientific discussion.

A central question in the following will be how governments or other instituti­ons can make a cultural-political contribution to the development of individual freedom. This latter pursuit is not without problems. The most important question is how a balance can be found between what in political science is called ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ freedom. This could be dubbed an emancipati­on dilemma, a dilemma because it is a matter of two significant, but also partly conflicting values which cannot be simultaneously fully realised and which will inevitably have to be weighed up against each other.[1]

Negative freedom can be defined as the area within which one can, undisturbed by others, do that or be that which lies within one’s capacity. The greater this private realm, the bigger the negative freedom. The judgment that the government has no reason to interfere in the area of culture, that the citizens are old enough and wise enough to determine themselves what is beautiful or ugly, or good and bad, or that the government can only intervene in someo­ne’s private realm if the people involved cause damage to others, is mainly based on the negative conception of freedom.

People who, on the other hand, are of the opinion that the state does indeed have a task in the field of culture, generally appeal to the positive conception of freedom. Positive freedom or autonomy is a much more comprehensive and more fundamental value than its negative counterpart. It refers to people’s capacity to independently give direction to their lives, or be master of their own existence. The greater this capacity, the greater the positive freedom. Isaiah Berlin, who will be extensively discussed later, states that this conception of freedom arises from the desire to be able to choose oneself and to be able to justify the choices made by referring to one’s own ideas and goals, the desire therefore to be somebody and not just anybody, someone who is responsible for his deeds and not some object deprived of will, plaything of external forces and powers.

Negative and positive freedom are partly complementary, partly overlapping values. One can only be master of one’s own life if one is not coerced by others to do something one does not actually want. Positive freedom is broader because it also includes a notion of ‘self-realization’. People must first have developed themselves to some extent if they want to take their own lives in their hands, independent of others. They must for example develop their judgment skills if they want to be in a position to make real choices: they must learn to distinguish alternatives, to evaluate and to choose. In order to make an autonomous choice one must in addition be aware of the possibilities of choice. Someone who has all his life been confronted only with ‘popular’ music has no real choice between Mozart and Springsteen.

The idea of autonomy or positive freedom is closely related to the humanistic ideal of culture, the ideal of personal development. The enlightened or autonomous person is seen here as a broadly developed personality, who is not swayed by prejudice, ignorance or habit, but consciously and with careful consideration steers his life, has resolutely taken his own fate in his hands. Both liberals and socialists, social democrats or radicals share this cultural ideal, partly based on the Enlightenment. However, there are differences of opinion on the answer to the question of how society must be organised in order to be able to realise this ideal. These differences of insight are to a high degree the result of a deviating image of man. More than socialists, liberals think that the individual is independently capable of developing his talents. In general liberals regard the social environment as a potential threat rather than a stimulus to this development and they therefore emphasise the negative freedom of the individual. The concept of freedom is therefore ultimately intended as a barrier against the people, against the community and the state, and is therefore anti-social in character.

The positive conception of freedom has been mainly formulated in socialist circles. Socialists have a more social image of man and assume to a higher degree that individuals can only develop in interaction with others. The development of intelligence is an illustration: the boundaries of what is possible are genetically determined, but these are rather far apart. The degree to which the potential present is developed is ultimately dependent on the stimuli received from the environment.

There is therefore an important difference between positive and negative freedom, which is relevant for cultural policy. It could be stated that negative freedom relates to the question of whether one can make possible choices undisturbed by others, while positive freedom is also concerned with the question of whether people really have anything to choose, whether they thus possess real choice alternatives and are competent to make a reasoned choice. Related to this is the fact that in contrast to its positive counterpart, no one is needed for negative freedom. One preferably enjoys one’s privacy on an uninhabited island. However, according to the advocates of positive freedom, one can only become autonomous with the help of others, in a culture.

3 The emancipation dilemma

We will return to the idea of social cultural dissemination. Its goal is not to impose a specific ethical or aesthetic preference on people. The goal is to create the situation in which they themselves can make real choices, choices thus on the basis of a reasonably developed capacity for argued choice and a reasonable knowledge of the available alternatives. This capacity and this knowledge can only be acquired through learning. The acquisition of culture, and with it of positive freedom, is therefore closely connected to enculturation, education and socialization. A society and its political frameworks can play an important role in this.

It is obvious that this learning process which is indispensable for the develop­ment of individual autonomy is at loggerheads with the equally significant negative freedom of the individual. While it is true to say that to a high degree a person only develops due to the education or stimuli which he receives from his environment, this development first becomes valuable if he is then allowed the freedom to also do something with it. The inevitable balance between positive and negative freedom which will have to be made by every serious socio-political theory, can be regarded as the first dimension of the emancipati­on dilemma. This dimension concerns not only children of whom it can be assumed that they have not yet developed any fixed personal preferences of their own and that their capacity for judgment leaves much to be desired. It also refers to adults (in so far as these can be identified) who do not look on their own initiative for alternatives which, if they were familiar with them, they would possibly highly esteem.

Cultural critics who want to bring about change in the current cultural prefe­rences, seen as objectionable or not optimal, run up against the concomitant problem, which can be seen as the second dimension of the emancipati­on dilemma. If the first dimension refers mainly to an individuality with personal preferences which has yet to be formed, with the second dimension, which can only be distinguished analytically from the first, it is a matter of already existing preferences. The relevant problem is shared by numerous socialists, christian democrats and social liberals, who in Anglo-Saxon countries are often designated ‘radicals’ and in the countries of the European continent generally as ‘progressives’. The critics concerned emphasise that the values, objectives, desires and preferences of the individual are to an important degree a product of the social interaction with his environment. The authenticity and thus the status of the individual preferences can therefore be placed somewhat in perspective. It can be supposed that the individual has developed preferences which while they are perceived by he himself as valuable and original, are in fact a casual, if not objectionable, product of the existing social structures and which are not optimal: there are wishes and accompanying gratifications which the individual would prefer to his current preferences, if he were familiar with these alternatives. That the latter is not the case, can have two causes. Firstly, the parties concerned can possess too little of the volition required for autono­my to look for alternative truths, to research whether what has been assumed up to now is indeed true, good or beautiful. Secondly, and perhaps partly explanatory of this, the existing social structures and processes can make it impossible to a greater or lesser degree for the people concerned to come in contact with alternatives. These can also lead them to the conviction that their present preferences are the only ones imaginable. Certainly if one is not in agreement with these cultural preferences, it is an obvious step to want to change the mechanism of socialization which is operative in every culture. The will for this has always been present in radicals or progressives (and equally in conservative circles). For example, within socialism and schools like the Frankfurter Schule there has always been an aversion to mass culture, a culture which is seen mainly as the product of the culture industry and which is mainly prominent through its flatness and uniformity.

Because progressives are generally inspired by democracy and egalitarianism, they must wrestle with a dilemma with regard to the regrettable preferences (cf. Benton 1982). This consists of the following: on the one hand, on the basis of the democratic principles subscribed to, they want to respect the existing individual preferen­ces, while on the other hand they consider these objectionable due to content or for reasons of the way in which they have been created, and want to change them. On the one hand therefore they assume on the basis of the negative conception that people should be treated as responsible beings, who are capable of making autonomous choices or developing preferences and should not be patronised in this. However, on the other hand, they refuse to take completely the existing preferences as starting point as this has the drawbacks that one is uncritical with regard to the manner in which these have come into being and one can never create the situation which the people concerned would prefer to the existing one if they were familiar with it. The question is once again how this preferable situation can be shaped without limiting unacceptably the negative freedom of the individual.

To resume: if one wants to disseminate culture and at the same time wants to take negative freedom seriously, then it is not possible to implement changes without the permission of those who are affected. However, it will not be easy to obtain this agreement due to the existing cultural preferences. However, if no changes are enforced, this means in practice accepting the continuing existence of a social system and the cultural preferences and needs produced by it, which are hard to square with the ideals of development cherished. It is therefore one thing or the other. If one wants to completely respect the sovereignty of people’s cultural preferences, then it will be necessary to temper ambitions with regard to the self-development or cultural emancipation of large parts of the population. If on the other hand we want to make the development of many possible then it will have to be accepted, as Benton has remarked (see 5.4) that this cannot always be self-development.

The task of getting out of this dilemma as unscathed as possible can be regarded as one of the most important cultural-political problems. In this book an attempt is made to contribute to a solution to this. It will be attempted to develop a conception of autonomy, which makes it possible to break out of the dilemma described above in a manner acceptable to the parties concerned. A central question in what follows therefore will be how the government in particular, by implementing a cultural policy, can contribute to enlarging the positive freedom of the individual, without his negative freedom being unac­ceptably limited.

Before we start on all this however, some attention will first be devoted to the nature, the possibilities and the sense of a political scientific analysis of concepts like freedom and autonomy. Considering the scepticism which has developed in our age in this field, this would not appear to be a superfluous exercise. Also, the objective of this study can be more precisely defined.

4 Essentially contested concepts

Terms like ‘freedom’, ‘autonomy’, ’emancipation’, ‘democracy’ and ‘paternalism’ form what the American philosopher W.B. Gallie has entitled essentially contested concepts (1956: 169). The meaning of these concepts can be endles­sly discussed because they are always defined in the context of a particular Weltanschauung. If this view is changed then these concepts also acquire other meanings. Weltanschauungs are inevitably based on a number of metaphysical, epistemological and ethical assumptions which are always contestable. The debate about their ‘correct’ meaning therefore remains always open just like the debate on and between the various world views.[2]

The idea that concepts can never be given uncontested contents, is naturally also contestable in itself. According to Gray it is an expression of “the pluralist, morally and politically polyarchic character of contemporary Western liberal society”. (Gray 1977: 337) People with a monist philosophy who are of the opinion that there is a recognizable order in the cosmos, will not want to subscribe to the thesis concerned. The process of rationalization which is taking place within our Western culture notwithstanding, and opposed to what Gray suggests, these people are probably still in the majority. Many amongst us, usually unconsciously, assume that each word has only one correct meaning. Richard Rorty writes that they believe “in an order beyond time and change which both determines the point of human existence and establishes a hierarchy of responsibilities”. The intellectual who do not share this belief are according to him “far outnumbered (even in the lucky, rich, literate democracies) by people who believe that there must be one. Most non-intellectuals are still committed either to some form of religious faith or to some form of Enlightenment rationalism.” (Rorty 1989: XV) We will therefore see below that numerous authors, with a rage only explicable by such a belief, have been looking for the last word on, the only correct meaning of, freedom.

Despite the essentially contested character of socio-political concepts it is unnecessary, and certainly also undesirable, to conclude that every debate on their content is meaningless or inevitably without issue. It is not the case that every meaning forms an incomparable product of a completely autonomous, completely closed ideology or philosophy, which has no similarity at all to other visions of reality. If this were indeed the case, then there could be no debate at all. What could the participants talk to each other about? In this context Gray rightly notes that “unless divergent theories or world-views have something in common, their constituent concepts cannot be ‘contested’, even though their proponents are in conflict. References to definitional ‘contests’ have a point only if there is something which is not treated as ‘contestable'” (Gray 1977: 342, cf. Rorty 1989: 40 et.seq.). Extreme interpretations of the ‘contestability thesis’ are therefore self-contradictory, as in that case there would be no more criteria even to identify the relevant concepts and disputes.

5 Task and method of political science

By going somewhat deeper into the methodology of political science the possibilities and the meaning of the debate on terms like freedom and autonomy can be made clearer. Political scientists have two tasks. In the first place, they attempt to make the presumptions of political thinking explicit and to evaluate them. In the second place they attempt to develop general theories or models in which our values, objectives and empirical knowledge are consis­tently organised or reorganised. Political science includes both empirical and normative political theory. These two areas of theory can be epistemologically distinguished with regard to the questions they concentrate on: the questions about ‘being’ and ‘belonging’ differ analytically, at least within Western thought. The epistemological status of the answers however, show strong correspondences. Behavioristic political scientists who only want to concern themselves, and believe they do so, with ’empirical’ questions, are insuffi­ciently aware of how implicit principles in the metaphysical, epistemological and ethical field limit their perception, description and explanation of political reality. They are therefore not practitioners of political science, who through their distance, objectivity and systematic approach distinguish themselves from their philosophical opponents generally held to be woolly, confused and irresponsibly engaged. They are just bad political scientists.

Because political science is always practiced within the framework of a particular philosophy or paradigm it is inevitably politically involved (cf. Taylor 1967 and 1971; Bluhm 1978; Bernstein 1976). Every political scientist is thus also a politician. However, not every politician is also a political scientist. The latter is distinguished by the capacity and willingness to make his principles explicit and to rationalise them and by the awareness of how these direct his perception and explanation of reality. He is characterised by, in short, what William Connolly called his ‘theoretical self-conscious­ness’. This self-awareness can be acquired through a confrontation, supported by scientific theory, of his own thinking, bound as it is to time and place, with that of others.[3] Knowledge of the history of political thought and of the theory of science is indispensable for this. Nowadays this knowledge, as a consequen­ce of the hard distinction made by the positivists between, on the one hand, empirical political theory or science and, on the other, normative political theory or philosophy, is still only expected from political philosophers. Unjustly: every serious practitioner of political science is also a political philosopher, just as every political philosopher — if his theories are to have any reality value and therefore not float like soap bubbles above reality — must also practice political science (see chapter 2).

Through its attempts to make the starting points of our thinking explicit and to evaluate them political science is by nature a critical science. It raises for discussion the values, ideas, attitudes which are taken as a matter of course by people because that is how they were taught, it has always been like this. In this discussion or evaluation the thought is checked for internal consistency and empirical support. A social image of man for example, is difficult to combine with an atomistic vision of society. And images of man, on which every political theory is based, gain in ‘actual’ plausibility when they chime with psychological and sociological insights gained in a particular acceptable paradigm (of course it is not a matter of bridging the logical gap between values and facts, but of the ‘actual’ gap).

If one wants to reach a consensus when disputing the inner consistency of someone’s ideas, than one will attempt to make it plausible that A and B are related, and that the opponent, because he subscribes to A, must also subscri­be to B. A precondition for the carrying on of a meaningful discussion which is ended with a joint conclusion is therefore that there are one or more shared principles which can serve as starting point, as basis. John Rawls writes about this in his A Theory of Justice, in a chapter on the justification of moral theories in general: “Being designed to reconcile by reason, justification proceeds from what all parties to the discussion hold in common. Ideally, to justify a conception of justice to someone is to give him a proof of its principles from premises that we both accept, these principles having in turn consequences that match our considered judgments. Thus mere proof is not justification. A proof simply displays logical relations between propositions. But proof becomes justification once the starting points are mutually recognized.” (Rawls 1971: 580-1; cf. Rawls 1987). A precondition for a fertile debate is therefore also that the participants want to have a logically consistent view of reality. If they do not meet this (Kantian) condition, then every discussion is naturally useless in advance.

This brings us to the epistemological basis of a political theory. Rawls’ ideas can be a starting point here. According to him, the development of a political theory plausible within a particular culture, boils down to the organization or reorganization in the most consistent manner possible of the ideas and intuitions, usually incoherent and ill-considered, which are found in this civilization. We do this by going ‘back and forth’ as it were between on the one hand, the existing feelings and judgments and, on the other hand, the abstract, consis­tent theory which is to be formulated. The first ideas are the starting point: one attempts to deduce the theory from this in the most acceptable manner. In doing so it is attempted to have the coherence between the existing judgments and theory as great as possible. The immediate plausibility of the latter is after all the strongest. From the abstract theory it is then argued back to the concrete approaches. It can now appear that some of these cannot be resolved in a single theory. It is then necessary to either adjust the theory or if this is not possible, to reject one or more of the original judgments. By going back and forth in this manner we can ultimately achieve what Rawls calls reflective equilibrium (Rawls 1971: 20)[4] a balance which incidentally is not necessa­rily stable, in which our general theoretical principles coincide with our, until then unexamined convictions.

The plausibility of a political theory is now not only dependent on its coheren­ce with the original convictions, convictions which naturally cannot claim absolute validity or indisputability, but also on the consistency of the entire theoretical construction which is based on this. A justification, writes Rawls, “rests upon its entire conception and how it fits in with and organizes our considered judgments in reflective equilibrium…justificati­on is a matter of the mutual support of many considerations, of everything fitting together into one coherent view.” (Rawls 1971: 579; Cf. Rorty 1989: 67 et.seq.) The empirical support which can be found for the theory can thus be included among those considerations, something which Rawls does not do explicitly (but naturally always implicitly).

To resume, the conception of freedom to be developed below will depend on three factors for its plausibility. In the first place, on its empirical support. A conception which requires of people for example that they arrive at a particular action or idea completely independent of and uninfluenced by others, has little reality value. Considering our knowledge of the actual functioning of people, knowledge which is valid within a number of psychological paradigms regarded as plausible in our present culture.[5] In the second place, on its internal consistency. It cannot argue, on the one hand, that individuals should be left completely alone and on the other, be based on the knowledge that people first develop their individuality in interaction with others. In the third place, finally, its plausibility is determined by its coherence with already existing moral intuitions and ideas. The feeling or the notion that it is essential that people be left a personal realm in which they can go their own way undisturbed by others, is widespread and deeply felt and for this reason conceptions which do not do justice to this lose credibility.

In what follows, it will become clear that in our culture there is no lack of shared intuitions and knowledge which can serve as a basis for a fertile debate about freedom. In Western political and social theory there is a greater agreement on the meaning of the content of this concept than the sometimes vehement debates would lead us to suspect. In line with the tasks set here for political science, a second objective of this book is therefore to make explicit and critically evaluate the most important assumptions of contemporary Western thinking about freedom and the formulation of the most consistent synthesis possible of our convictions and knowledge in this field (The study of the way in which the state, for example, could by implementing a cultural policy contribute to the enlargement of the positive freedom of the individual, without his negative freedom being unacceptably limited in the process, was already mentioned as a first, more specific objective).

6 Structure of the discourse

The starting point of the discussion in the following chapter is formed by the two concepts of freedom which were developed by Isaiah Berlin in his lecture Two concepts of liberty. This was chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, because of the central place which Berlin has occupied in the debate on freedom since 1958, the year of his speech. Wellnigh all authors comment on his position directly or indirectly and this can serve therefore as something to hang the argument on. Secondly, because the majority of the questions which are relevant for the objective set here have been looked at in the discussion set forth by Berlin. With the help of this discussion therefore, it is possible to make a justified selection from the great quantity of literature available. Thirdly, it is above all Berlin who has warned against the ways in which arguments for positive freedom, in theory and practice, can end in totalitaria­nism. Precisely because it will be defended here that positive freedom should have a more central place in our hierarchy of values than is currently the case, Berlin’s standpoint is an attractive point of departure. The incorporation of his acute and largely justified critique of, and warning against, certain interpretati­ons of this conception of freedom can only make our own position stronger. Fourthly, and finally, Berlin is a suitable point of departure as his metaphysi­cal, epistemological and to a large extent his ethical principles too are repre­sentative of the mainstream of the Western intellectual tradition and are also shared by this writer. Thanks to these common principles there is a sturdy basis for a fertile debate and for an alternative concept of freedom equally acceptable within the Western tradition of thought.

In the third chapter, we will be examining the positive concept of freedom. In his treatment of this concept Berlin has mainly exposed its less desirable sides. He emphasises what he considers to be the possibility offered by this theory for justifying totalitarianism. It requires no commentary that in doing so he has invited much criticism from the advocates of the positive conception. Partly on the basis of this critique in this chapter it will be attempted to further develop the positive conception, only summarily described by Berlin. This will be done, in so far as this is possible, from the viewpoint of the individual. The question will therefore be which demands can be made from this individual or his situation before it can be called ‘free’ in the positive sense.

In the fourth chapter, attention will be turned to the question of how someone’s positive freedom can be impeded or promoted by his social environment, and how realistic the chance of a totalitarian end is with the latter. The critique of the social models which are one-sidedly based on the negative conception of freedom, will be treated by going deeper into the thinking of a number of theoreticians, representative of the positive conception. Some overlap is therefore unavoidable, but on the other hand the coherence between the various parts of a concept of freedom will become more visible and it will be avoided having standpoints taken from their context.

In conformity with the earlier commentary on essentially contested concepts, the latter is a general principle for this book. As every conception is indissolu­bly linked to a particular Weltanschauung, this view, if justice is to be done to the concept concerned, must be involved in its presentation and analysis. It is therefore better to go deeper into a limited number of standpoints, than to remove from a large quantity of conceptions that one which is apparently a support of one’s own position.

In the fourth chapter, the spotlight is chiefly on the social context of individual autonomy and a first dimension of the emancipation dilemma. In the fifth chapter, the second dimension of this dilemma is primarily examined. The question here will therefore be how the existing socialization and preference structure can be broken up without the negative freedom of the individual being unacceptably restricted. In particular, the possible role of paternalism will be discussed here.

In the sixth chapter, it will be attempted to arrive at a synthesis of the insights earlier acquired. It will also be attempted to make a connection on a theoreti­cal level between promoting individual autonomy and the social or ‘vertical’ dissemination of culture.

In chapter seven finally, the cultural policy implemented in five Western countries since the end of the Second World War, will be more concretely examined. These are the United States, Great Britain, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. The most important questions here are, firstly, how participation in cultural activities is socially disseminated, secondly, how it is attempted in practice to promote cultural participation and with it the development of individual autonomy, thirdly, to what extent this goal has been realised, and, fourthly, how the policy can if necessary be improved.


[1] A dilemma is, according to the Dutch dictionary Van Dale, “a state in which a choice must be made between two ways, both of which produce large objections”. Because here there are two significant values it would perhaps be better to speak of an ‘antimony’, a ‘contradiction between two judgments both of which appear to be true’. However, because the relevant problem can also be formulated in terms of two objectionable choices (to completely choose one of the two values is objectionable as this will inevitably be at the expense of the other), and because the concept “dilemma” is more familiar in everyday speech and has increasingly come to include the meaning “antimony”, it has been decided here to use the formulation “emancipation dilemma”. The “paradox of emancipation” used by Benton (see 5.4) is incidentally rejected because here there is no apparent, but a real contradiction.

[2] Gray defines an essentially contested concept as: “…a concept such that any use of it in a social or political context presupposes a specific understan­ding of a whole range of other, contextually related concepts whose proper uses are no less disputed and which lock together so as to compose a single, identifiable conceptual framework…(these) concepts occur characteristically in social contexts which are recognizable those of an ideological dispute.” (1977, p.332-3)

[3] Connolly writes that theoretical self-awareness is achieved, “as I attain awareness of previously unexamined assumptions at the center of my theory, as I attend to its conceptual contours and to the test procedures it supports, as I probe the inner connections among these three dimensions and explore the normative implications of the entire system. Such self-consciousness is best attained through a comparison of my theory, at each of these levels, with alternative systems. In this way I begin to see how my concepts may appear limited or even defective from the vantage point of other systems; I start to probe the ways in which my test procedures protect key assumptions; I begin to explore the possibility that my commitment to those assumptions is shaped in part by my desire to sustain the normative conclusions they support. In this way I probe the depth connections among the assumptions, concepts, test procedures, and normative commitments of my theory…” Connolly, 1974, p.65.

[4] Naturally, this method for developing a political theory is not a discove­ry of Rawls: in practice political theorists have seldom done anything else. His achievement is chiefly that he has made it more explicit than others. Although Rawls considers his considerations to be primarily applicable to the normative theory, the similarity to the science theory of Thomas Kuhn is striking.

[5] Here once again it is not the logical gap between facts and values which is bridged (it is not unlogical to cherish the conception concerned as an ideal) but the so-called factual gap: a theory loses reality value when it demands things from people that they will never be able to do.

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