Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Professor Evan Simpson
Hereditary self-government, the lack of a personal property system, and coercive healing practices are contemporary aboriginal cultural practices that conflict with liberalism. Is it legitimate for a liberal state to coerce peoples with these and more illiberal practices to change them when most members of the culture are opposed, all-things-considered? This thesis argues that a liberal theory of justice like Rawls's cannot adequately justify such liberal cultural coercion. The best interpretation of political liberalism rejects war and strong economic sanctions against peoples with nonliberal cultural practices, and includes liberal cultural toleration through formal political autonomy rights of peoples of self-determination, secession and independence. These political autonomy rights lead to less civil unrest and despotism compared to the political assimilationism of all to a dominant people's political conception in multipeople states, and are fairer to all peoples. Liberal legitimacy requires that sufficient actual and not merely hypothetical or future persons endorse the reasoning and conclusions of parties in Rawls's original position. Rawls's hypothetical reasoning binds actual persons with obligations by engaging with their considered convictions. When the considered convictions that can be presumed in a liberal domestic public culture are not present in a people, the conditions that legitimate liberal state coercion are not present. Yet the partisan imposition of a liberal public culture would undermine political liberalism's freestanding nature and political objectivity. Similarly, the lack of agreement of peoples that human rights violations, except of peoples' self-determination, are a ground for war means imposing this standard is illegitimate. Peoples with nonliberal cultures can be credited with conceptions of reasonable disagreement that reasonably disagree with political liberalism's conception of reasonable disagreement, undercutting the latter's claim to political objectivity for a people. Without endorsing a coercive imposition that it takes to be illegitimate, political liberalism cannot justify coercively vindicating its standards among opposed nonliberal peoples.
Murray, Joseph Patrick, "Liberal cultural coercion" (2000). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2444.