John Kekes: Against Liberalism

Cornell University Press, 1997


“John Kekes’s Against Liberalism offers compelling argumentation for the position that liberalism denies the very conditions it requires for its sustenance. As a consequence, liberal policies are inconsistent and self-defeating. Rarely has such a forthright and well-constructed argument been made against liberalism’s misguided flirtation with utopianism.”  Herbert London

“This book deserves a place on the same shelf with Burke, Tocqueville, and Hayek. From now on no one counts as a serious conservative – even less, as a serious liberal – who has not paid it close attention.”  Wallace Matson, University of California, Berkeley

“One of the many merits of John Kekes’s Against Liberalism is its careful argument that the priority attached to individual autonomy in recent liberal philosophies is unreasonable. In any sensibly pluralistic view, autonomy is only one among the necessary conditions…of human well-being. Others – such as peace, social cohesion and a healthy environment – are just as important. Further…these other components of the human good cannot always be made compatible with autonomy…Kekes’s central, unanswerable argument is that in unreasonably emphasizing the good of autonomy, recent liberalism evades the reality of such conflicts of values…Kekes’s imaginative and provocative book is only one of many unmistakable evidences of the passing of the Rawlsian regime in political philosophy. The ongoing dissolution of that liberal hegemony is a sign that pluralism is at last reaching into intellectual life. As a result, political philosophy may be able to reconnect with the world that it was once supposed to be about.”  John Gray, Times Literary Supplement

“Kekes performs a useful task in identifying the contradictions in liberal political theory.”  Kenneth R. Craycraft, Jr., The University Bookman

“A comprehensive, pointed and fair critique of the…assumptions that lie behind liberal policies, [Kekes’s book] demonstrates why the old liberal idea of giving people the moral autonomy to choose and live out good lives must, because of its self-contradictions, fail.”  Robert Royal, Review of Metaphysics

“Incorporating his previous reflection about the relationship of character and morality, this work stands out in what is otherwise a well-populated chorus of questioners of liberalism.”  John J. Barrett, Theological Studies

Against Liberalism relentlessly questions and rejects…common assumptions of contemporary political philosophy…Unlike many of liberalism’s opponents, Kekes makes a serious effort to understand liberalism’s basic claims…A provocative and challenging book for students of political philosophy.”  Samuel R. Freeman, Ethics

“Kekes’s book is very good; it is filled with arguments that are deep, complex and lively.”  Shadia Drury, Toronto Globe and Mail

Against Liberalism is a provocative and engaging book…What Kekes offers us is in fact amounts to a vivid external critique, on the basis of a less optimistic view of human nature. At its best, it is a powerful reminder that liberals had better take evil seriously too.”  Norbert Awander, Zurich University, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice

About the Author:

John Kekes is Professor of Philosophy and Public Policy at the State University of New York at Albany.

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi