Public reason and political legitimacy

In this book chapter, PluriCourts Postdoctoral Fellow Silje Langvatn discusses John Rawl's concept of "political legitimacy".

The article is part of an ARENA report on "Expertise and Democracy", edited by Cathrine Holst (2014).

Rawls famously initiated a turn to theories of justice and normative political philosophy in the early 1970s. But in the early 1990s Rawls made an equally important contribution to political philosophy by shifting the focus to political legitimacy and offering a normative alternative to Max Weber’s influential sociological and descriptive conception of legitimacy (Rawls 1993; 1995/1996; 1996. Cf. also Rawls 1999). Unfortunately, Rawls failed to present his ideas on political legitimacy in a systematic and clear way, and nor did he explicitly discuss why he shifted the focus from justice to political legitimacy.

Langvant gathers and systematises Rawls' scattered comments about political legitimacy, hoping to show that Rawls offers a more interesting and challenging conception of political legitimacy than is often thought. She first looks at the various characteristics Rawls use to explain the meaning of the term ‘legitimacy’, and at why Rawls came to shift the focus from justice to political legitimacy in his later works. She then goes on to give a very rough sketch of Rawls’s own normative conception of political legitimacy, where the idea of public reason plays a major role.

Read the entire ARENA report and Langvatn's chaper on pp. 117-140.

Published Feb. 11, 2015 12:39 PM - Last modified Mar. 8, 2019 11:18 AM