Value pluralism is the idea, most prominently endorsed by Isaiah Berlin, that fundamental human values are universal, plural, conflicting, and incommensurable with one another. Incommensurability is the key component of pluralism, undermining familiar monist philosophies such as utilitarianism. But if values are incommensurable, how do we decide between them when they conflict?
George Crowder assesses a range of responses to this problem proposed by Berlin and developed by his successors. Three broad approaches are especially important: universalism, contextualism, and conceptualism. Crowder argues that the conceptual approach is the most fruitful, yielding norms of value diversity, personal autonomy, and inclusive democracy. Historical context must also be taken into account. Together these approaches indicate a liberal politics of redistribution, multiculturalism, and constitutionalism, and a public policy in which basic values are carefully balanced.
The Problem of Value Pluralism: Isaiah Berlin and Beyond is a uniquely comprehensive survey of the political theory of value pluralism and also an original contribution by a leading voice in the pluralist literature. Scholars and researchers interested in the work of Berlin, liberalism, value pluralism, and related ideas will find this a stimulating and valuable source.
"No one has explored the link between value pluralism and liberalism with more persistence and precision than George Crowder. The Problem of Value Pluralism is Crowder’s best treatment of this issue, and it deserves a wide readership." — William A. Galston, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution
"George Crowder's well-established reputation as an expert on Isaiah Berlin's value pluralism and its implications will be further burnished by this new volume. Once more he displays the clarity, thoroughness, coherence, ingenuity and command of the literature that characterise all his work. After helpfully recapitulating his view of Berlin's own seminal contribution, he turns to a critical examination of the work of Berlin's contemporaries and successors, most of it inspired or provoked by Berlin. The result is the most complete treatment of this crucial seam of moral and political thought that has yet been given to us, and required reading for all serious students of pluralism." — Henry Hardy, Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, Isaiah Berlin's principal editor, and author of In Search of Isaiah Berlin: A Literary Adventure.
1. Berlin and the Problem of Value Pluralism
2. The Great Goods
3. Agonism and Context
4. Realism and History
5. Diversity and Liberalism
6. Toleration and Autonomy
7. Democracy and Compromise
8. Constitutionalism and Public Policy