Against ‘Engineers of Human Souls’: Paternalism, ‘Managerialism’ and the Development of Isaiah Berlin’s Liberalism

J. L CHERNISS
HISTORY OF POLITICAL THOUGHT 35.3 (2014): 565-588

Abstract: Isaiah Berlin is conventionally identified as an anti-Communist Cold War intellectual, and a partisan of ‘negative’ against ‘positive’ liberty. Yet examination of Berlin’s early political writings reveals that Berlin was concerned with the dangers posed in Western, democratic societies by imposed conformity and the displacement of politics and regulation of private life by technocratic management. These writings also show that the vision of liberty to which Berlin was committed encompassed elements of what he would identify as ‘positive’, as well as ‘negative’, liberty. Berlin emerges as concerned not only with critiquing totalitarianism or advocating pluralism, but with articulating a liberal, ‘humanist’ view of culture and the self against modern, technocratic politics.