‘Constitution (Written or Unwritten)’: Legitimacy and Legality in the Thought of John Rawls

Forthcoming in Ratio Juris (2018)

23 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2018

Date Written: February 4, 2018

Abstract

In what he called "the liberal principle of legitimacy," John Rawls proposed that coercive exercises of political power can be justified to free and equal dissenters when "in accordance with a constitution (written or unwritten) the essentials of which all citizens, as reasonable and rational, can endorse . . . ." Does "unwritten constitution" there refer to empirical regularities of political practice (as opposed to normative rules and standards)? To norms that subsist only as custom but not as law? To norms that subsist as common law but not as code law? Which interpretation is best?

Keywords: constitution, political liberalism, John Rawls

Suggested Citation

Michelman, Frank I., ‘Constitution (Written or Unwritten)’: Legitimacy and Legality in the Thought of John Rawls (February 4, 2018). Forthcoming in Ratio Juris (2018) . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3253892 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3253892

Frank I. Michelman (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-4628 (Phone)
617-495-1110 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/facdi

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