Must Politics Be War? In Defense of Public Reason Liberalism

Oxford University Press, Forthcoming

317 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2016 Last revised: 7 Sep 2017

See all articles by Kevin Vallier

Kevin Vallier

Bowling Green State University

Date Written: August 8, 2016


Many think that politics is essentially an arena of strategic confrontation where parties struggle to defeat their opponents. Partisans of all stripes divide people into the good and the bad — religious or rational, capitalist or worker, patriot or traitor, 1% or 99%, hateful or tolerant — and see politics as the means to victory. My book claims that this understanding of politics is mistaken. I develop an account of social order where moral and political disagreement can proceed while preserving moral peace, where people can see those they disagree with, not as targets to be defeated, but as potential friends and neighbors who can cooperate to advance the diverse and divergent ends of each. In particular, liberal political institutions can create and preserve a moral peace among persons. Indeed, the best feature of liberal democratic institutions is the capacity to facilitate peaceful disagreement among moral agents through the use of publicly recognized rights and decision-making rules, containing conflict within the bounds of peaceful, respectful relationships. The liberalism most alive to the need for moral peace is contemporary public reason liberalism, with its emphasis on the justification of coercive law to multiple reasonable points of view. The version of public reason liberalism I expound explains how politics need not be war.

Keywords: liberalism, public reason, political liberalism, justificatory liberalism, public reason liberalism, contractarianism, public choice, Rawls, Gaus, Buchanan, Tullock, Kantian moral theory, political theory, political philosophy

Suggested Citation

Vallier, Kevin, Must Politics Be War? In Defense of Public Reason Liberalism (August 8, 2016). Oxford University Press, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Kevin Vallier (Contact Author)

Bowling Green State University ( email )

Bowling Green, OH 43403
United States

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