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Liberalism without Perfection$
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Jonathan Quong

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594870

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594870.001.0001

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Justification and Legitimacy

Justification and Legitimacy

(p.108) 4 Justification and Legitimacy
Liberalism without Perfection

Jonathan Quong

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that liberal perfectionism lacks a convincing account of political legitimacy, that is, an account of how the liberal state gains the moral right to rule. Perfectionists, the author claims, have been too quick to assume that if citizens would be justified in following perfectionist directives issued by a state, this is sufficient to show the state has the moral right to rule over those citizens. What justifies an institution is not always what legitimates an institution, but this insight is ignored by liberal perfectionism. The final sections of the chapter defend a natural duty approach to political legitimacy, and explain how this approach coheres with a political liberal conception of legitimate authority. The chapter concludes by surveying the arguments made against perfectionism in the book thus far.

Keywords:   authority, legitimacy, liberal perfectionism, natural duty theory, normal justification thesis, Rawls, Raz, service conception

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