Reference : Can Rawlsians be constitutional deliberative democrats?
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Arts & humanities : Philosophy & ethics
Can Rawlsians be constitutional deliberative democrats?
Burks, Deven mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Identités, Politiques, Sociétés, Espaces (IPSE) >]
Democracy in Crisis Conference
from 30/01/2019 to 01/02/2019
University of Macedonia
[en] Rawls ; deliberative democracy ; constitutionalism
[en] Most see Rawls as a “constitutionalist” rather than a “proceduralist”. He insists that the basic schedule of freedoms, rights and governing procedures, once established, be removed from the table of governmental and democratic decision-making. Pragmatically, that schedule must be fixed to avoid majoritarian domination, acrimonious bargaining and gridlock and to realize the stabilizing effect of a permanent public set of institutional arrangements and values. Morally, one must affirm only those institutional principles which one would choose in perpetuity, for past, present and future generations. Accordingly, Rawlsians might wonder what good can come of constitutional deliberative democracy, i.e. enabling citizens to formulate and modify the constitution, potentially undermining its stability?

Though a necessary element of any just political order and a great political good, stability is only such when stable institutions are also just and guarantee the “fair value of political liberty”, namely that “citizens similarly gifted and motivated have roughly an equal chance of influencing the government’s policy and of attaining positions of authority irrespective of their economic and social class” (Rawls 2005: 358). Formal equality is no replacement for effective equality. Despite lamenting that “one of the main defects of constitutional government has been the failure to insure the fair value of political liberty” (Rawls 1999: 198), Rawls’s institutional vision remains largely within familiar representative and electoral logics. His threefold view of deliberative democracy is similarly limited: an idea of public reason, an institutional framework including a deliberative legislature, and public uptake of the public reason idea(l) (Rawls 2005: 448).

Accordingly, I argue that Rawls and his “fair value guarantee” are better served by promoting both freestanding and embedded citizen deliberation on constitutional arrangements. This vehicle for the fair value guarantee is more easily attainable than the transition to a his preferred alternative for political economy, “property-owning democracy” (Rawls 2001: §41) and may fulfill similar aims. Finally, I review two remaining objections from Rawlsians concerning compelled participation and institutional pluralism. All in all, given Rawls’s prominence in political theory, showing that Rawlsians can be constitutional deliberative democrats may help bring another piece to the constitutional deliberative democratic coalition.

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