- Legitimacy, democracy and public justification: Rawls' political liberalism versus Gaus' justificatory liberalism
- Res Publica
- Volume | Issue number
- 20 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
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. So I contend that—pace Gaus, but also Rawls—rather than simply amending political liberalism, the claims of justificatory liberalism bring out fatal tensions between the desiderata of any theory of liberal-democratic legitimacy through public justification.
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