, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 9-25
Date: 13 Aug 2013

Legitimacy, Democracy and Public Justification: Rawls’ Political Liberalism Versus Gaus’ Justificatory Liberalism

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Abstract

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.