The Negative Liberal Tradition: Hobbes and Locke
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People choose between possibilities; possibilities are constituted by knowledge; and knowledge is based on what has happened before. The theory and the practice of the Greeks have provided models which have been copied, abused, and adapted from the time of the Greeks to the present day. They have been possibilities moulding what followed, even though what followed has rarely been democracy. In the period between the classical Athens and the relatively recent past it is the theory rather than the practice of democracy, and indeed of government more generally, which is important for our purposes. The theory we are particularly interested in is theory which frames and explains our present understanding of democracy, and so, luckily for us, not all important political theory needs to be considered. This chapter in fact jumps over two thousand years from the last. On the other hand, not all theory important for the present understanding and assessment of democracy is itself democratic theory or specifically about democracy. The thinkers centrally considered in this chapter are important for us because of their influence on the actual nature of our present democracy and because of the possibilities they offer us for understanding it. Yet they did not think of themselves as democrats.