Rawls contra Rawls: Legitimacy, Normative Impact, and the Basic Structure


  • Giulio Fornaroli Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México




Rawls, Political legitimacy, political liberalism, authority, basic structure


In this paper, I contrast two approaches to political legitimacy, both influenced by Rawls. One is the classic political liberal picture, according to which a state is legitimate if its “constitutional essentials” could be endorsed by reasonable citizens. The alternative is the idea that what makes a state legitimate is primarily its success at organizing the basic structure in a way that is demonstrably favorable to the governed. Specifically, I suggest that a state is legitimate insofar as it organizes the basic structure in a manner that makes it easier for citizens to behave justly towards one another and adopt autonomous choices. I then move to demonstrate the superiority of this normative impact solution to the problem of legitimacy vis-à-vis political liberalism, even when reasonable disagreement about justice is factored in.


2022-12-08 — Updated on 2022-12-08

How to Cite

Fornaroli, G. (2022). Rawls contra Rawls: Legitimacy, Normative Impact, and the Basic Structure. Ethics, Politics & Society, 5(2), 127–145. https://doi.org/10.21814/eps.5.2.209



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