Philosophy Colloquium: Kaveh Pourvand
Social Unity in the Liberal Democratic State
The Spring 2022 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents Kaveh Pourvand (University of Arizona).
Is social unity possible in diverse, impersonal liberal democracies? This article considers a distinctive and surprisingly little-studied answer provided by John Rawls. He characterises a liberal democracy as a social union. Compliance with liberal justice is not simply a fair means by which liberal citizens pursue their idiosyncratic, personal goals. It is also a means by which they cooperate to realise their shared powers and capacities. This article supplies an immanent critique of this Rawlsian view. It argues that the conditions necessary for such social union are met only within small groups. They do not scale up to impersonal political institutions, from which we may reasonably expect equality and liberty but not any substantive unity of purpose.