Library Header Image
LSE Theses Online London School of Economics web site

Impartiality and neutrality: A defence with an illustration.

Garimella, Subramaniam (1995) Impartiality and neutrality: A defence with an illustration. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

Download (5MB) | Preview


The idea that the state should be neutral between diverse and conflicting conceptions of the good has occupied centre-stage in liberal political circles during the past two decades. Neutrality is a term of art and therefore not surprisingly it comes in a variety of forms with potentially different interpretations. Two such versions frequently invoked by philosophers are what are called justificatory and consequential neutrality. On the former view the state is held to be neutral if the justification of its policies is independent of any reference to particular conceptions of the good. Abstracting from conceptions of the good does not however repudiate the advantages that some of them will have over others under one policy rather than another. On the other hand, a state is neutral consistent with consequential neutrality only if it can guarantee equal satisfaction for the protagonists of the various conceptions of the good. Accordingly the measures of the state reflect the prospects for different conceptions of the good. The first chapter argues the case for neutrality as a constituent virtue of liberalism by addressing one of its main adversaries, perfectionism. In the second chapter I consider the two forms of neutrality more closely and delineate impartiality as the central kernel of the doctrine of political neutrality. The last two chapters consider some of the implications of impartialist neutrality. The chapter on distributive equality concludes that neutrality of an impartialist variety goes far beyond the conventional view that neutrality could be satisfied by the equal distribution of either welfare or resources. The final chapter draws on the controversy that followed the publication of The Satanic Verses as an example to chart out the implications of an impartialist programme for practical cases. The conclusion drawn from such an exercise is again the perhaps unsettling one that a neutral resolution of conflicts invariably yields at least partially unsavoury outcomes for the conflicting parties, but that its merits lie elsewhere.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, General
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses

Actions (login required)

Record administration - authorised staff only Record administration - authorised staff only


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics