Atomists, Liberals, and Civic Republicans

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79:4 (2001), pp. 465–78
Charles Taylor contends that civic republicanism is inconsistent with “ontological” atomism, which comprises two tenets: methodological individualism and ‘axiological individualism’ (i.e., welfarism).  In fact, although many leading liberal theorists (including Mill and Rawls) are ontological atomists, Taylor denies that ontological atomism is consistent with liberalism or any other nondespotic political doctrine.  Contra Taylor, I show that atomists can subscribe to civic republicanism without inconsistency.  Further, I show that Taylor gives us no reason to doubt that atomists can be liberals, and I eliminate at least one possible reason for thinking that the best-known liberal theories are inconsistent with civic republicanism.