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John RawlsDebating the Major Questions$
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Jon Mandle and Sarah Roberts-Cady

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780190859213

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190859213.001.0001

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Right-Wing Populism and Noncoercive Injustice

Right-Wing Populism and Noncoercive Injustice

On the Limits of the Law of Peoples

(p.354) 19 Right-Wing Populism and Noncoercive Injustice
John Rawls

Michael Blake

Oxford University Press

John Rawls’s The Law of Peoples makes several assumptions that, in the years since that book’s writing, have been shown to be potentially flawed. The first is that democratic societies can be predicted to inculcate citizens with democratic values, such that democratic peoples have no realistic worry about backsliding into tyranny. The second is that there is a sharp conceptual distinction between coercive intervention, on the one hand, and mere conversation and speech on the other. The emergence of right-wing populism—and the related phenomenon of troll farms, intended to inflame disagreement and anger within democratic political communities abroad—have raised the issue of antidemocratic societies using speech to undermine support for democratic self-government abroad. Rawls’s Law of Peoples, I argue, is poorly suited for the task of responding to these circumstances. Rawls’s Law of Peoples might have been better situated for this task, the chapter concludes, had Rawls included robust respect for democratic governance within that law. This Democratic Law of Peoples might have been the basis of a global society in which democracies held each other to account for their deviations from democratic self-government—while still expressing tolerance and modesty about the extent to which we might coercively intervene in favor of democracy.

Keywords:   John Rawls, toleration, justice, warfare, populism, coercion, democracy, troll

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