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Conclusion: Deference for the Democratic Age

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The conclusion takes into account the tension between deference and democratic equality, and how Brexit is forcing the main political parties to face these issues with, paradoxically, a return of rational popular deference. The ultimate question is how to retain some form of the older positive idea of deference—an ethics of deference—while adapting it to a new political landscape that is fully democratic and has a partially codified constitution.

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  1. 1.

    Kahan (2003, p. 193).

  2. 2.

    On this question see: Poole (2003, vol. 23, pp. 435–54).

  3. 3.

    See: T. T. Arvind and L. Stirton, ‘The curious origins of judicial review’, Law Quarterly Review, 2017, 133, pp. 91–117.

  4. 4.

    Hegel (1896, p. 282).

  5. 5.

    Shils(1972, p. 144).

  6. 6.

    Turner (1999, p. 143).

  7. 7.


  8. 8.

    John Milbank and Adrian Pabst, The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future, London, Rowman & Littlefield International Ltd., 2016, p. 74.

  9. 9.

    Turner (1999, p. 143).

  10. 10.

    ‘La déférence ‘engendre une égalité dans l’inégalité qui ne peut se réaliser en d’autres lieux’ (my translation). Ansart (2000, p. 266).

  11. 11.

    La déférence ‘crée un espace spécifique de rencontre dans lequel la distance complice entre les partenaires autorise l’exercice d’une liberté contrôlée et librement consentie. Elle n’est plus cette obligation générale qu’imposait une société hiérarchisée, elle est, tout au contraire, un lien rare et volontiers discret qui a les charmes puissants de la gratuité’ (my translation). Ibid, p. 267.

  12. 12.

    See: Enriquez (2000, p. 199).

  13. 13.

    See for example: Scheff (1988, pp. 395–406); Woodfield (2000, pp. 433–51); Anderson et al. (2012, pp. 1077–88); de Kwaadsteniet and van Djik (2010, pp. 515–25); Laird (1989, pp. 543–50).

  14. 14.

    See particularly: Kolers (2005, pp. 153–73); Joyce (2007, pp. 187–206); Aaron Stalnaker, ‘Confucianism, Democracy, and the virtue of Deference’, Dao, 12, pp. 441–59; Young (2009, pp. 554–80).

  15. 15.

    ‘Theresa May, Tories of Tories’, The Economist, 22 April 2017, p. 28.

  16. 16.

    See:, accessed 27 May 2017.

  17. 17.


  18. 18.

    This was a point made by David Starkey in his December 2019 lecture on ‘Brexit & Our Constitutional Crisis: History’s Lesson’ at the New Culture Forum’s 2019 Smith Lecture.

  19. 19.

    ‘Britain’s good-chap model of government is coming apart’, The Economist, 18 December 2018. (accessed 24 May 2020).

  20. 20.

    Soper (2002, pp. xvi–189).

  21. 21.

    Ibid., p. 169.

  22. 22.

    Ibid., p. 170. Soper is attempting to find a middle ground between the work of Ronald Dworkin—who grounds political obligation on theories of membership and communities, and A. John Simmons—for whom associative obligations are mostly linked to personal connections, see: Ibid., pp. 169–80.

  23. 23.

    Ibid., p. 170.

  24. 24.

    Ibid., p. 176.

  25. 25.


  26. 26.

    King (2010, p. 365).

  27. 27.

    Soper (2002, p. 182).

  28. 28.

    Interestingly, such a view of the possibility of an ethics of deference, is shared by others, such as Stalnaker, but this time by appealing to virtues found in Confucianism. In an article on the ‘virtue of deference’, the author explains how through the teachings of Confucianism, ‘deference to the “powerful” when properly executed, can reconfigure their power as rightful authority, beholden to higher standards that justify, constrain, and direct their actions within a broader ethical outlook’. See: Aaron Stalnaker, ‘Confucianism, Democracy, and the virtue of Deference’, Dao, 12, p. 458.

  29. 29.

    John Milbank and Adrian Pabst, The Politics of Virtue: Post-Liberalism and the Human Future, op. cit., pp. 1–2.

  30. 30.

    Anthony King, The British Constitution, op. cit., p. 365.


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      Marshall, C. (2021). Conclusion: Deference for the Democratic Age. In: Political Deference in a Democratic Age. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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