How to accommodate modus vivendi within normative political theory

Anno LIII, n. 222, maggio-agosto 2018

Anno LIII, n. 222, maggio-agosto 2018
Articolo completo/Full text


In this paper, the role that the notion of modus vivendi can play within a normative political theory inspired by Rawls' “political liberalism” is explored. In the first section, I criticize an alternative concept of modus vivendi articulated within an influential “minimalist” (if not downright political-realist) approach to liberalism, championed among others by John Gray and Bernard Williams. Modus-vivendi liberalism is argued to be affected by internal inconsistence. Shying away from the extreme conclusion that stability trumps justice under all conditions, modus vivendi theorists often re-introduce normative assumptions and values that lack proper justification and contradict the pretended overcoming of the distinction of justice and prudence. In the second section, I argue that modus vivendi retains its full fruitfulness if integrated within a normative political-liberal view of legitimacy, as the notion through which the oppression-free political coexistence of liberal and non-liberal constituencies, domestically and transnationally, is best understood. To that effect, a notion of modus vivendi different from the standard conception of modus vivendi expounded in Political Liberalism is introduced.