Legitimacy, Democracy and Public Justification: Rawls’ Political Liberalism vs Gaus’ Justificatory Liberalism
Res Publica (2014) (Forthcoming)
28 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2013
Date Written: November 10, 2012
Public justification-based accounts of liberal legitimacy rely on the idea that a polity’s basic structure should, in some sense, be acceptable to its citizens. In this paper I discuss the prospects of that approach through the lens of Gerald Gaus’ critique of John Rawls’ paradigmatic account of democratic public justification. I argue that Gaus does succeed in pointing out some significant problems for Rawls’ political liberalism; yet his alternative, justificatory liberalism, is not voluntaristic enough to satisfy the desiderata of a genuinely democratic theory of public justification. Moreover I contend that — pace Gaus — rather than simply amending political liberalism, the claims of justificatory liberalism cast serious doubts on the sustainability of the project of grounding liberal-democratic legitimacy through the idea of public justification.
Keywords: Rawls, Gaus, Public Justification, Public Reason, Legitimacy, Liberalism
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