What is Neutrality
General Subserie Research Paper No. 2011-02
26 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2011 Last revised: 27 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 26, 2011
This paper reinvestigates the question of liberal neutrality. We contend that current liberal discussions have been dominated – if not hijacked – by one particular interpretation of what neutrality could imply; namely, exclusive neutrality, aiming to exclude religious and cultural expressions from the public sphere. We will argue that this is merely one among several relevant interpretations. To substantiate our claim, we will firstly elaborate upon inclusive neutrality by formulating two supplementary interpretations: proportional neutrality and compensatory neutrality. Secondly, we will argue that inclusive proportional neutrality is the most appropriate interpretation in many contexts. Our elaboration highlights that some political disputes should not be seen in terms of the antithesis between liberal neutrality and illiberal alternatives but, instead, as a clash between various valid but incompatible interpretations of what liberal neutrality may imply.
Keywords: state neutrality, Laïcité, Rawls, multiculturalism, inclusive neutrality exclusive neutrality
JEL Classification: K19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation