Reasonably Radical: Deliberative Liberalism and the Politics of Identity


Liberalism and the politics of identity seem incompatible. Liberalism starts from the capacity of reasonable individuals to order their lives. The politics of feminism and multiculturalism, however, argue that liberal individualism glosses over structural inequalities and relies on unjust normalizing pressures. Modern political philosophy must reconcile these two viewpoints if it is to move forward. Reasonably Radical synthesizes both approaches in a new form of liberal theory: deliberative liberalism.

Anthony Simon Laden demonstrates that liberal theory can accommodate deep diversity once it recasts its understanding of the legitimization of just principles. Liberalism traditionally argues for the legitimacy of liberal political principles on the basis of citizens' consent, but derives that consent from what it regards as common human attributes. Laden, however, drawing on Rousseau and Hegel, two thinkers often ignored by contemporary liberals, claims that legitimacy cannot be so derived.

According to deliberative liberalism, citizens' actual deliberation confers legitimacy on political principles in virtue of its being reasonable, regardless of whether it yields consensus. Laden argues that political deliberation can only be reasonable under certain social conditions, however. These include a reciprocal distribution of power and respect for deep diversity. Reasonable principles thus require radical politics, and both find a home in this clear theoretical articulation of identity politics which is at the same time a strong new vision of liberalism.

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