'The Reign of Freedom'
: The Discourse of Freedom under the Administration of President George W. Bush (2001–2009)

  • Graham Andrew Spencer

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis examines a paradox: namely, how the administration of President George W. Bush, which placed freedom at the core of its political ideology, developed and implemented policies that ran counter to the tradition of liberty to which, in the discourse of freedom that it constructed, it constantly appealed.
The thesis suggests that the explanation for this paradox lay not so much in the conventional political sphere as in the administration’s understanding and interpretation of the meaning of freedom itself. This interpretation, the thesis argues, reflects the deep influence upon the administration of neoconservative ideology as well as that of the Christian right. Using Isaiah Berlin’s ideas about freedom as an analytical tool, the thesis firstly considers the interpretative paradigms of the American liberty tradition and the nature of freedom embedded within it together with the contribution made to that tradition by early theorists. It then explores the philosophical roots of neoconservatism and draws conclusions about the interpretation of freedom embedded within that political ideology.
It is argued that the American tradition of liberty is grounded in an ideal of freedom which, using Berlin’s terminology, is essentially ‘negative’ in character, whilst neoconservatism adheres to a concept of freedom that is ‘positive’, and, accordingly, liable to perversion to something akin to its opposite. The thesis demonstrates neoconservative influence upon the administration and its interpretation of the meaning of freedom by exploring a number of key policy areas. In foreign affairs it considers the background of neoconservative foreign policy objectives and how these were manifested in the administration’s conduct of the ‘war on terror’ and the Iraq war following the events of 9/11. In domestic terms the thesis makes reference to the exercise of presidential power, the suppression of dissent and the manipulation of science.
Through the consideration of these examples the thesis concludes that the Bush administration amply demonstrated the perversion to which positive liberty is prone.
Date of Award20 May 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorAlasdair Spark (Supervisor) & William Sheward (Supervisor)

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