Charlie Hebdo Meets Utility Monster

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The Critique

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The Charlie Hebdo massacre in January 2015 and the subsequent attacks of November 13 cast a garish light onto a conundrum at the center of how liberal democracies understand themselves. The Syrian emigrant crisis has added further color. How can a tolerant, liberal political culture tolerate the presence of intolerant, illiberal, sub-cultures while remaining true to its principles of tolerance? The problem falls within the intersection of two developments in the thinking of John Rawls, the great American political philosopher who died in 2002. The later Rawls struggled with the problem of how society might stably survive the clash of plural sub-cultures that a liberal society - unless it is oppressively coercive - must itself foster and allow to flourish. And he separately struggled with the problem of how liberal peoples might peacefully share the planet with illiberal, but "decent" peoples elsewhere. This article shows that Rawls's two solutions do not easily mix.

Recommended Citation

William A. Edmundson, Charlie Hebdo Meets Utility Monster, The Critique (Jan. 7, 2016), https://web.archive.org/web/20160920000258/http://www.thecritique.com/articles/charlie-hebdo-meets-utility-monster/.