Latest Issue

Questions of authority

Paul Seabright has written a stimulating book about the origins of liberalism. But it will not help us rethink our relations with non-liberals at home or abroad, and he does not grasp the nature of authority

By Matt Cavanagh   September 2004

At a time when we are worrying about liberalism’s ability to cope with the cultural diversity brought by non-western immigration, and conversely, about the wisdom of trying to export liberalism to an unwilling non-western world, Paul Seabright’s new book is a reassurance. In The Company of Strangers, Seabright writes that: “liberalism is not about how to live as a western capitalist protestant.” Instead, he says, liberalism is about how to live with strangers. Liberal attitudes and conventions allow strangers to trust each other, to co-operate rather than fight, to make deals and stick to them – all of which are…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect