Taking up listening to podcasts has revealed some new names for me. Among them a Professor Philip Pettit who describes himself as a 'civic republican'. On listening in I was surprised to find how much of a liberal he is. I would not cavil at his interpretation of freedom as non-domination and requiring social or legal guarantees of each person's area of freedom from control by others. This is not too far from Mill's no harm conception.

My surprise had nothing to do with Pettit denying his republicanism connects at all with the GOP. From past acquaintance I would have guessed that. But while he is keen on people being able to come together for mutual help and support, such as in charities or trade unions, he does not follow up with the rhetoric of active citizenship, participation, and patriotism I was used to as central to the civic republican tradition. If Britannica are to be believed on this topic, Pettit, who traces his idea of freedom back to the Romans, would be nearer to a 'neo-Roman' than a 'neo-Athenian' (we have 'neo-' almost anything nowadays) version of civic republicanism. But Roman morality and politics, especially under the republic, still suggested inclusion of the themes Pettit hadn't highlighted.

The podcast discussions make clear Pettit's strong opposition to neoliberalism or deregulated capitalism. I think it is this rather than liberalism in general that he objects to, and I can sympathise. But I would offer a warning. Not least of the motivations behind neoliberalism back to Reagan and Thatcher has been patriotism, with the link between economic growth in particular and 'standing tall' - which Pettit identifies as characteristic of the free person or society. Thus many of the New Right or neoliberals display civic republican instincts in that way. I once again offer the old warning: Be careful what you wish for.

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