University of Tasmania
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The art of governing conduct : liberalism and the paradox of regulated freedom

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posted on 2023-05-27, 18:30 authored by Standish, Christine
This project draws on Michel Foucault's work on \governmentality\" as well as his scattered texts on liberalism to explore a central liberal concern: the \"freedom-regulation\" problematic. Foucault took liberalism to be an art of government that promises prosperity and well being for the whole through liberty of the individual. From this perspective there is a problem in determining just what is free what has to be free and what needs to be regulated The two central poles of the liberal freedom-regulation problem are located in the principle of economic liberty - achieving the objective of unregulated economic activity; and the rule of law - which is necessary to ensure order predictability and certainty. It is this relation that yields the paradox this thesis sets out to investigate. For on the one hand it is central to liberalism that individuals be as free as possible to pursue their own interests in the economic sphere. Indeed the prosperity and well being of society depends upon it. On the other hand it is less clear what degree of freedom should be extended to the private realm of morality and personal conduct. The thesis will show that the development of liberal political economic systems presented a challenge to the inventive capacities of moral philosophers and political economists who sought to devise ever new technologies of government which could control and restrict behaviour whilst continuing to embrace the spirit of \"natural\" individual liberty. Given that liberalism was concerned with discovering the best way to govern in line with its central principles of individual economic liberty and the rule of law the most effective form of regulation was seen as self-regulation or self-discipline. However as I will demonstrate an analysis of liberal thought from the late seventeenth century until the present day reveals that despite their rhetoric major thinkers within the Anglo-Scottish tradition considered the principle of self-regulation to be an impossible ideal that could not be widely deployed in the general community. Basically they see it as an untrustworthy governmental technique as only an elite few are possessed with the strength of character to render them capable of such ethical practice. In general there is recognition that for the majority of the population behaviour and conduct needs to be overtly controlled through governmental techniques of regulation and order. Hence the importance of investigating the paradox of regulated freedom that continues to be deeply embedded in the fabric of liberalism."


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Copyright the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). 2000. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2000. Includes bibliographical references

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