Liberal Pluralism

The Implications of Value Pluralism for Political Theory and Practice

  • By William A. Galston
    University of Maryland, College Park

  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press

    Online Publication Date:March 2010

    Online ISBN:9780511613579

    Hardback ISBN:9780521813044

    Paperback ISBN:9780521012492

  • Book DOI:

    Subjects: Political philosophy

William Galston is a distinguished political philosopher whose work is informed by the experience of having served from 1993-1995 as President Clinton's Deputy Assistant for Domestic Policy. Isaiah Berlin first advanced the moral theory of value pluralism in the 1950s and it subsequently was developed by a number of distinguisthed scholars, including Galston. In Liberal Pluralism, Galston defends a version of value pluralism for political theory and practice. Against the contentions of John Gray and others, Galston argues that value pluralism undergirds a kind of liberal politics that gives great weight to the ability of individuals and groups to live their lives in accordance with their deepest beliefs about what gives meaning and purpose to life. This account of liberal pluralism is shown to have important implications for political deliberation and decision-making, for the design of public institutions, and for the division of legitimate authority among government, religious institutions, civil society, parents and families, and individuals. Liberal pluralism leads to a vision of a good society in which political institutions are active in a limited sphere and in which, within broad limits, families and civil associations may organize and conduct themselves in ways that are not congruent with the principles that govern the public sphere. William Galston is Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland and Director at the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. He is the author of Liberal Purposes (Cambridge, 1991), which won the Spitz Prize. Galston's other books include Justice and the Human Good (Chicago, 1980) and IKant and the Problem of History (Chicago, 1975). He is also a Senior Advisor to the Democratic Leadership Council and the Progressive Policy Institute.


"This is an important task, which Galston fills with elegance and clarity." Philosophy in Review

"Recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above." Choice

"Galston's ideas concerning the nature of value pluralism as presented in Liberal Pluralism are both interesting and convincing." Perspectives on Politics

"Liberal Pluralism would work well in a course exploring political theory beyond current partisan politics. Galston's classical liberalism, tempered by a rejection of the radical individualism now endemic in much American political discourse, is a fine contribution to the field." - Journal of Church and State, Richard Heyduck, First United Methodist Church