The course will consider the relation between liberal and radical conceptions of freedom and justice, and the role of law and public actors can have in their promotion. The analysis will combine the approaches of analytic philosophy, a practice aimed at analyzing and clarifying concepts, principles and arguments (in particular normative ones), and of critical social theory, an approach to the study of society that rejects the idea that social science should be neutral and aims at unmasking the mechanisms that prevent the full emancipation of human beings and at valorizing the elements that, on the contrary, favor it. Both liberal and radical positions will be considered as critical positions, that move from different notions of freedom and liberation and understand differently both the field and the goals of political action.
After a general introduction, that, starting from Isaiah Berlin's well-known distinction between negative and positive freedom, will consider different conceptions of freedom, the course will be divided into four parts.
The first part will reconstruct the liberal paradigm, taking as references the works of authors such as John Stuart Mill, Ronald Dworkin, F. A. Hayek and John Rawls. Despite the significant differences between the positions of these authors, they all adopt a "negative" conception of freedom (not to be confused with the idea of a merely formal freedom) and understand political action as aimed at reforming public institutions and at orienting the action of public actors towards safeguarding spaces of private freedom and granting individuals equal opportunities to accede to the means needed to exercise that freedom. Central for the liberal paradigm are the principles of equal treatment, protection of private freedom, State neutrality towards ideals of the good life, equality of opportunity, distributive justice and, at the institutional level, the idea of the complementarity between the market and a welfare system with redistributive functions.
The second part will focus on criticisms to the liberal paradigm raised from some radical positions. The critical perspectives od authors such as Herbert Marcuse, Iris Marion Young and Nancy Fraser will be considered. These positions share the idea that negative freedom does not exhaust the notion of freedom and that the liberation of human beings, insofar as possible, should go beyond that. Radical positions understand political action broadly, as aimed at transforming society in a way not limited to public institutions and to the action of public actors, but extends to culture and to the ideals of the good life and the forms of behaviors and relationships that it supports. Central are the rejection of the liberal principle of State neutrality and the notions of repression, oppression, structural injustice and misrecognition.
The third part will explore some attempts to reconcile liberalism and radicalism: the capability approach, that, in the variant of Martha C. Nussbaum, invites to rethink liberalism moving from a reflection on the conditions that favor the full flourishing of human beings, and some reform proposals of actual economic assets, such as the idea of a "property-owning democracy" and the idea of a unconditional basic income.
Finally, in the fourth part, the tension between liberal and radical positions will be investigated starting from the analysis of the different claims of two political movements that with their action have contributed to enlarge our freedoms: the feminist movement and the LGBT movement. Within both movements, liberals fight for "equal" freedom: for women to have the same freedoms of men and homosexuals, bisexual and transgender people to have the same freedoms of heterosexual and cisgender people. On the radical front, we find, instead, within feminism, those positions that reject the liberal distinction between what is personal and what is political, by denouncing as the oppression of women originates in the private spheres of sexuality and the family, and within the LGBT movement, those positions that put at the center of their political action the ideal of a full liberation of sexuality (of everybody) from repressive institutions and those positions that criticize the binarisms of sex, gender and sexuality.
The final lecture will ask whether liberalism and radicalism are necessarily incompatible or there is, instead, a possibility for their reconciliation in a position that, while stressing the limits and risks of attempts to pursue the ideal of the full liberation of human beings through the law and the action of public actors, at the same time, recognizes that attaining a merely negative freedom is only the first step towards the full emancipation of human beings and evaluates the different variants of liberalism taking as standard the aptitude to favor further steps in that direction. The radical liberalism/liberal radicalism of John Stuart Mill will be taken as an example of a perspective that goes in that direction.
Non-attending students will prepare for the final exam, by studying some texts representative of liberal and radical positions on freedom, law and justice.
Prerequisites for admission
Lectures will be given in Italian and attending students will be required to read texts and participate to class discussion in that language.
Students who don't have the knowledge of the Italian language necessary to take part to these activities could take the exam in English as non-attending students. A bibliography in English will be provided.
No other preliminary knowledge is required.
Students who don't have the knowledge of the Italian language necessary to attend the classes with profit but who are interested in the topics of the course could take the exam in English as non-attending students. To prepare for the exam they should study the following texts:
- Berlin, Isaiah, "Two concepts of liberty", in Id., Liberty, edited by Henry Hardy, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2002, pp. 166-217.
- Dworkin, Ronald, "Liberalism", in Id., A Matter of Principle, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA), 1985, pp. 181-204.
- Mill, John Stuart, On Liberty, in Id., On Liberty and Other Essays, edited by John Gray, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1991, pp. 1-128 (or any other edition).
- Mill, John Stuart, Principles of Political Economy, 7th edition, in Id., Principles of Political Economy with Chapters on Socialism, edited by Jonathan Riley, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994 (or any other edition), book II, chapter 1 ("Of Property", pp. 5-24), book IV, chapter 6 ("Of the Stationary State", pp. 124-130).
- Hayek, Friedrich August, Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1982, chapters 9 ("'Social' or Distributive Justice", pp. 62-100) and 10 ("The Market Order or Catallaxy", pp. 107-132).
- Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice, revised edition, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (MA), 1999, chapters 2 ("The Principles of Justice", only pp. 52-93) and 5 ("Distributive Shares", only pp. 232-251 e 267-277).
- Marcuse, Herbert, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Enquiry into Freud, Beacon Press, Boston, 1955 (or any other edition), all but chapters 5, 9 and the Epilogue).
- Young, Iris Marion, Justice and the Politics of Difference, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1990, chapters 1 ("Displacing the Distributive Paradigm", pp. 15-38), 2 ("Five Faces of Oppression", pp. 39-65), 3 ("Insurgency and the Welfare Capitalist Society", pp. 66-95) and 7 ("Affirmative Action and the Myth of Merit", solo pp. 192-225).
- Honneth, Axel, The Idea of Socialism: Towards a Renewal, Polity Press, Cambridge (UK), 2017.