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Public Reason, Partisanship and the Containment of the Populist Radical Right

Posted on 5 May 2021

Journal article by Gabriele Badano and Alasia Nuti

image of the journal Political Studies

Dr Gabriele Badano and Dr Alasia Nuti's latest research article  "Public Reason, Partisanship and the Containment of the Populist Radical Right" is featured in the journal Political Studies on Sage journals published 29th April 2021.


This article discusses the growth of the populist radical right as a concrete example of the scenario where liberal democratic ideas are losing support in broadly liberal democratic societies. Our goal is to enrich John Rawls’ influential theory of political liberalism. We argue that even in that underexplored scenario, Rawlsian political liberalism can offer an appealing account of how to promote the legitimacy and stability of liberal democratic institutions provided it places partisanship centre stage. Specifically, we propose a brand-new moral duty binding ‘reasonable’ partisans committed to pluralism. This duty establishes conditions where partisans must strategically transform society’s public reason (i.e. transform the visions for society their parties campaign on) in ways that promise to attract back support from illiberal and antidemocratic competitors. While this strategic behaviour might seem impermissible, we show that Rawls’ distinctive account of sincerity in democratic deliberation is uniquely placed to justify it as perfectly ethical.