Rawls contra Rawls: Legitimacy, Normative Impact, and the Basic Structure

Ethics, Politics, and Society 5 (2):127-145 (2022)
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In this paper, I contrast two approaches to political legitimacy, both influenced by Rawls. One is the classic political liberal picture, according to which a state is legitimate if its “constitutional essentials” could be endorsed by reasonable citizens. The alternative is the idea that what makes a state legitimate is primarily its success at organizing the basic structure in a way that is demonstrably favorable to the governed. Specifically, I suggest that a state is legitimate insofar as it organizes the basic structure in a manner that makes it easier for citizens to behave justly towards one another and adopt autonomous choices. I then move to demonstrate the superiority of this normative impact solution to the problem of legitimacy vis-à-vis political liberalism, even when reasonable disagreement about justice is factored in.

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Giulio Fornaroli
Jagiellonian University


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