ABSTRACT

This chapter demonstrates at length my central thesis, which is that, in certain cases, the indirect hegemony of partisan civil institutions over state functions is not a violation of the principles of liberal democracy, but is permitted and facilitated by liberalism’s tendency to allow “private” civil institutions, such as churches and families, to control the production of ideology and desire. I will make this argument through an analysis of John Locke’s political philosophy, in which he suggests that the state may not interfere with the liberties of citizens, unless the actions of those citizens violate others’ freedoms or the public welfare. However, despite these strictures, in his A Letter Concerning Toleration (hereafter Letter) Locke goes on to recommend state actions that contemporary liberal political philosophers would probably consider quite illiberal. My primary purpose will be to discover how Locke justifies these supposedly illiberal recommendations. As Locke rightly claims in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding (hereafter Essay), and to which most contemporary liberals would agree, “No Government allows Absolute Liberty: The Idea of Government being the establishment of Society upon certain Rules or Laws, which require Conformity to them; and the Idea of absolute Liberty being for any one to do whatever he pleases” (Locke 1979, IV.3.18).1 Therefore the questions I will set for this chapter include the following. How are limitations to liberties determined in a liberal democracy? On the basis of which discourses, ideologies, and desires are the limitations determined? What civil institutions does liberal democracy allow to form, shape, or determine those discourses, ideologies, and desires?