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LegitimacyThe State and Beyond$
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Wojciech Sadurski, Michael Sevel, and Kevin Walton

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198825265

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198825265.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 24 July 2021

Another Voluntarism

Another Voluntarism

John Rawls on Political Legitimacy

Chapter:
(p.43) III Another Voluntarism
Source:
Legitimacy
Author(s):

Paul Weithman

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198825265.003.0004

John Rawls’s presentation of his famous principle of legitimacy raises a number of exegetical and philosophical questions which his texts leave unresolved. The key to their solution lies in a claim Rawls makes about the character of political power. Rawls uses language familiar from social contract theory to describe that power, saying that it is the power of the public as a corporate body. This chapter considers but ultimately rejects the suggestion that Rawls’s treatment of legitimacy is Lockean. Rather, Rawls follows Kant in thinking that talk of a contractual incorporation is best understood as a way of expressing fundamental moral claims about the object of a constitution, about citizens’ standing, and about legislators’ duties. These are the claims that do the real work in Rawls’s account of legitimacy. To show this, the chapter lays out Kant’s conception of the social contract and argues that we can draw on that conception to understand Rawls’s account of political legitimacy. It then spells out the philosophical pay-offs of the reading offered here by showing how it solves some textual puzzles and how Rawls’s account differs from others that have recently been defended in political philosophy. The chapter concludes by mentioning some lingering questions about Rawlsian legitimacy.

Keywords:   legitimacy, public reason, social contract, John Rawls, John Locke, Immanuel Kant

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