Liberal Pluralism, by William A. Galston

Widely respected for his academic work in political theory and public policy, William Galston is also a political actor. He has been deeply involved in partisan politics, serving in the presidential campaigns of John Anderson, Walter Mondale and Al Gore. In 1989 Galston became a senior adviser with the Progressive Policy Institute and the Democratic Leadership Council, arguing that the Democratic Party had to refashion itself--recapturing core issues and constituencies--if it was ever again to win the White House. That argument caught the attention of Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas, which led to Galston's serving from January 1993 until May 1995 as the president's deputy assistant for domestic policy.

The form of liberalism that Galston, now professor of public affairs and director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of Maryland, resisted in Democratic politics was largely born and bred in the academy, and much of his academic work reflects a similar effort. Just as Galston rejected dominant trends within the Democratic Party, he also spurned a related conception of liberal political theory-one that insisted on neutrality about the contents of the human good and that understood people's deepest commitments and beliefs as simple preferences.

In his earlier book Liberal Purposes, Galston argued that these notions were not constitutive of liberalism. To the contrary, he contended, liberalism is part of a long tradition of thought that goes back to Aristotle. Like Aristotelian political theory, liberalism outlines a conception of the human good and tries to foster that good in and through politics. To be sure, the liberal good is far thinner than Aristotle's, but it is nevertheless substantive and thereby orients political life.