This paper studies the critique of Friedrich Hayek’s liberalism delivered by Raymond Aron, on a period that runs from the 1940s to the early 1980s. Through a cross rereading of the main texts of these two twentieth century philosophers, it tries to show that their oppositions—on the place of economic freedom, on the definition of freedom, and on the conception of democracy—reveal the existence of two deeply divergent paths within contemporary neo-liberalism: one that is based on an obsessive attachment to the market and that is accompanied by a pronounced distrust towards democracy; the other that is, on the contrary, built on a trust in democracy, considered as liberalism’s endpoint, which leads to the non- absolutization of the market. Reconsidering this opposition may facilitate a process of moving away from a narrow and caricatural perception of neo-liberalism, which reduces it to a locking of political possibilities.
French “neoliberalism” was born in the 1930s, specifically during the Walter Lippmann Colloquium of 1938 organized by the philosopher Louis Rougier, in the context of the imminence of the war. The aim of this article is to understand how, given the totalitarian threat, the French neoliberal thought of this period conceived democracy. We shall compare to this end the conceptions of two founders of this current: that of Rougier, who preferred to speak about “constructive liberalism” (“libéralisme constructeur”) and that of Louis Marlio, who spoke about “social liberalism” (“libéralisme social”). Are these two expressions equivalent and are they underlain by the same conception of the democracy?
I develop a conceptual analysis of environmental ethics, built on the compassionate motives highlighted by Hans Jonas and on the procedural norms of deliberative democracy. General development is characterized as an ethical construct, the hardcore of which consists in a conception of the person and of personal development. Personal development is construed, in the manner of Paul Ricœur, as the outcome of the communicative actions of the singular person, aiming at the “good life”. Deliberative democracy is characterized by the norms of communicative action developed by Jürgen Habermas. These norms derive action from the unanimous agreement of persons affected by its consequences, obtained in conditions of procedural impartiality allowing each person’s point of view to be voiced and heard. We develop two versions of them, adapted to the issues of urban ecology and sustainable development respectively. I show how the scope of compassionate motives impinges on the distinction between the persons-ends and the things-means of development, and how this affects the substance of communicative action. I analyze also the meaning of decision risk in this normative context.