Res Publica 26 (3):423-431 (2020)

Paul Weithman
University of Notre Dame
It has recently been contended that the rise of populism in the US, culminating in the election of Donald Trump, vindicates liberal political theory, and the liberal political theory of John Rawls in particular. For the election of someone like Trump is just what Rawls’s theory would lead us to expect. Rawls’s theory would lead us to expect it because Rawls thought that if a liberal democracy is to be stable, it must satisfy the demands of reciprocity. But there is ample evidence that the contemporary US flouts those demands, and so an angry backlash of the sort that carried Trump to the White House is not surprising. I draw on research sociologist Arlie Hochschild did among voters on the American right to show that the failure of reciprocity which explains Trump’s election is not a failure of exactly the form of reciprocity Rawls had in mind. The difference between the two forms of reciprocity is suggestive. It suggests the sort of policy conclusions liberals and progressives ought to draw from Rawls’s theory to address our current predicament.
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DOI 10.1007/s11158-019-09443-2
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How Can Political Liberalism Respond to Contemporary Populism?Andrew Reid - forthcoming - European Journal of Political Theory:147488512091130.

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