First Advisor

Craig Carr

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




Liberalism, Liberalism Communities



Physical Description

1 online resource (113 p.)


Issues of community have become an important focus in the field of political theory in North America. Critics of liberalism, the dominant American theoretical tradition, have charged that liberal theorists have misconceived the nature of community at the ontological and societal level. Some critics see a relationship between the failure of liberal theorists to adequately address community and certain social pathologies facing the American liberal polity. This thesis seeks to address the following questions: How have liberal theorists typically dealt with the issue of community? What are the major criticisms related to issues of community currently being leveled at liberalism? Are there theorists who have noted liberalism's weaknesses with regard to community and who have retooled the liberal enterprise? Finally, assuming a liberal response, which of these if any are the most compelling? In response to the last question, the work of two liberal theorists, Will Kymlicka and William Galston, are analyzed for their responses to criticisms of liberalism issuing from the communitarian school. In the findings of this thesis, the liberal response found in Kymlicka's Liberalism, Community, and Culture presents the most powerful reply to these critiques. Kymlicka uses the challenge of minority rights to liberal conceptions of justice to argue that liberal traditions can be drawn upon for a coherent recognition of culture as an essential right of the individual. Kymlicka bases his argument for expanding liberal understandings of minority rights on liberalism's commitment to equality of circumstances; viewing culture as a potential source of inequality which the dominant culture takes for granted, but which minority cultures must struggle to maintain. By addressing the questions above I hope to contribute to the debate about liberalism and community and sharpen the insights of liberal political theory. By incorporating the insights of Kymlicka into liberal theory I believe that liberalism can better address public policy challenges in contemporary American society, many of which are closely tied to concerns of community.


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