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Schliesser, E. Walter Lippmann: The Prophet of Liberalism and the Road not Taken. Journal of Contextual Economics – Schmollers Jahrbuch, 139(2–4), 349-364.
Schliesser, Eric "Walter Lippmann: The Prophet of Liberalism and the Road not Taken" Journal of Contextual Economics – Schmollers Jahrbuch 139.2–4, 2019, 349-364.
Schliesser, Eric (2019): Walter Lippmann: The Prophet of Liberalism and the Road not Taken, in: Journal of Contextual Economics – Schmollers Jahrbuch, vol. 139, iss. 2–4, 349-364, [online]


Walter Lippmann: The Prophet of Liberalism and the Road not Taken

Schliesser, Eric

Journal of Contextual Economics – Schmollers Jahrbuch, Vol. 139 (2019), Iss. 2–4 : pp. 349–364

5 Citations (CrossRef)

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Schliesser, Eric, Department of Political Science, University of Amsterdam, Postbus 15578, 1001 NB Amsterdam, Netherlands; Smith Institute for Political Economy and Philosophy, Chapman University, USA.

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This article shows how in The Good Society Walter Lippmann argues that the very idea of a liberalism worth having is a spiritual project: it involves a spiritual transformation over extended historical time even if the true destination is unknown or uncertain. Along the way, I argue that Lippmann is also acutely aware of the dangers of theorizing that merely affirms an imperfect (or worse) status quo. He is, thus, attractive for those who wish to revive liberalism. In addition, Lippmann’s sensitivity to the role of power and technological change generates a potentially important philosophy of law. This article sketches his understanding of a liberalism that embraces a “spirit of adaptation” without too much deference to a status quo. The second part shows that despite his sensitivity to the risks of demagogues in politics, Lippmann did not turn away from democratic politics. In particular, he has an attractive conception of the vital nature of a pluralist politics inherent to liberalism. Along the way the key limitation of Lippmann’s political philosophy is diagnosed: his depoliticized, juridical conception of political representation and legislation.