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Across the great divide

The new cleavage in British politics is not between left and right, but between liberals and communitarians. The elite is mainly liberal, believing rights are universal, while most people see them as conditional. But this divide is not insurmountable

By Julian Baggini   January 2008

Two years ago, I began a project to try to understand better the beliefs and values of the English—their “folk philosophy”—from religious views to their conceptions of the good life. But it was what I learned about the political beliefs of “ordinary” people that I found most interesting, and most significant for the development of liberal democracy.

No one who wants to advance a progressive political agenda can dismiss the values of mainstream society. Whereas elected politicians have to pay attention to what people want, intellectuals are usually, at best, uninterested. This is one reason why intellectuals and commentators rarely…

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