In this study, four notable thinkers in the field of modern social and political theory are examined, with a view to determining how far it is possible to create and maintain a non-coercive but sustainable political order under conditions of diversity in contemporary Western societies. The four writers considered are Ernest Gellner, whose thought focused on the concept of civil society; Friedrich Hayek, whose principal concern was with a market-centred spontaneous social order; Jurgen Habermas, whose ideal is a discursive democracy; and Michael Oakeshott, whose model of a free society is based on a non-instrumental conception of civil association. The author is a senior lecturer in the Division of Social Studies at the City University of Hong Kong.
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