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Social Theory and Practice

Volume 48, Issue 1, January 2022
Realistic and Pragmatic Approaches to Democratic Legitimacy

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Displaying: 1-9 of 9 documents

1. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Janosch Prinz Introduction to the Special Issue on Realist and Pragmatist Approaches to Democratic Legitimacy
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2. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Ugur Aytac Political Realism and Epistemic Constraints
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This article argues that Bernard Williams’ Critical Theory Principle (CTP) is in tension with his realist commitments, i.e., deriving political norms from practices that are inherent to political life. The Williamsian theory of legitimate state power is based on the central importance of the distinction between political rule and domination. Further, Williams supplements the normative force of his theory with the CTP, i.e., the principle that acceptance of a justification regarding power relations ought not to be created by the very same coercive power. I contend that the CTP is an epistemic criterion of reflective (un)acceptability which is not strictly connected to the question of whether people are dominated or not. I show that there are cases of non-domination that fail the epistemic requirements of the CTP.
3. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Samuel Bagg Realism against Legitimacy: For a Radical, Action-Oriented Political Realism
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This article challenges the association between realist methodology and ideals of legitimacy. Many who seek a more “realistic” or “political” approach to political theory replace the familiar orientation towards a state of (perfect) justice with a structurally similar orientation towards a state of (sufficient) legitimacy. As a result, they fail to provide more reliable practical guidance, and wrongly displace radical demands. Rather than orienting action towards any state of affairs, I suggest that a more practically useful approach to political theory would directly address judgments, by comparing the concrete possibilities for action faced by real political actors.
4. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Ilaria Cozzaglio Legitimacy between Acceptance and Acceptability: A Subjects-First View
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Political realists argue that the concept of political legitimacy should be linked to subjects’ beliefs, while still offering normative guidance. In this article, I suggest doing so by referring to the concepts of acceptance and acceptability. I argue that a regime is legitimate if its power is accepted by subjects, provided that such acceptance meets the requirements of acceptability: subjects’ beliefs about the regime’s legitimacy need to successfully satisfy three requirements—coherence, fact-sensitivity, and politics-sensitivity—via entering public debate. I rely on pragmatism to investigate the link between subjects’ beliefs and their experience of facing political authority.
5. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Thomas Fossen Political Legitimacy as a Problem of Judgment: What Distinguishes Moralist, Realist, and Pragmatist Approaches?
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This paper examines the differences between moralist, realist, and pragmatist approaches to political legitimacy by articulating their largely implicit views of judgment. Three claims are advanced. First, the salient opposition among approaches to legitimacy is not between “moralism” and “realism.” Recent realist proposals for rethinking legitimacy share with moralist views a distinctive form, called “normativism”: a quest for knowledge of principles that solve the question of legitimacy. This assumes that judging legitimacy is a matter of applying such principles to a case at hand. Second, neither Rawls nor Habermas is a normativist about political legitimacy. The principles of legitimacy they proffer claim to express rather than adjudicate the legitimacy of a liberal-democratic regime, and thus cannot solve the question of legitimacy at a fundamental level. But perhaps we should question the normativist aspiration to theoretically resolving the problem to begin with. My third claim is that a “pragmatist” approach enables us to rethink political legitimacy more deeply by shifting focus from the articulation of principles to the activity of judging. Implicit in Rawls’s and Habermas’s theories I then find clues towards an alternative account of judgment, in which the question of legitimacy calls not for theoretical resolution but for ongoing practical engagement.
6. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Janosch Prinz, Enzo Rossi Financial Power and Democratic Legitimacy: How to Think Realistically about Public Debt
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To what extent are questions of sovereign debt a matter for political rather than scientific or moral adjudication? We answer that question by defending three claims. We argue that (i) moral and technocratic takes on sovereign debt tend to be ideological in a pejorative sense of the term, and that therefore (ii) sovereign debt should be politicised all the way down. We then show that this sort of politicisation need not boil down to the crude Realpolitik of debtor-creditor power relations—a conclusion that would leave no room for normative theory, among other problems. Rather, we argue that (iii) in a democratic context, a realist approach to politics centred on what Bernard Williams calls ‘The Basic Legitimation Demand’ affords a deliberative approach to the normative evaluation of public debt policy options.
7. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Peter J. Verovšek A Realistic European Story of Peoplehood: The Future of the European Union beyond Williams's Basic Legitimation Demand
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The divisions emanating from the Eurozone crisis have led political realists to argue that European identity should be conceived of via “basic legitimation demand” (Williams) that prioritizes the creation of order in backward-looking, non-utopian terms. In contrast, I suggest that Europe would do better by building an ethically-constitutive “story of peoplehood” (Smith) that looks both backward and forward. I argue that the EU should build on the ideals drawn from the continent’s shared past as well as its desire to retake control from the global economic forces that threaten democratic political sovereignty in the twenty-first century.
8. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
Manon Westphal For an Agonistic Element in Realist Legitimacy
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The article shows that an uncritical view of domination is a weakness of current accounts of realist legitimacy and it argues that an agonistic supplement can help overcome that weakness. Two accounts of realist legitimacy are discussed: the moral minimum account and the acceptance account. In each case, certain modifications of the argument are needed to establish a distance from moralism, but these modifications create an indifference to domination. The incorporation of an agonistic principle into realist legitimacy can solve this problem. The agonistic case for effective possibilities for contestation endows realist legitimacy with a critical stance towards arrangements that are unresponsive to criticism on the part of those who are subject to them without, however, introducing a moralist argument.
9. Social Theory and Practice: Volume > 48 > Issue: 1
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