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Democracy and Authenticity: Toward a Theory of Public Justification Paperback – March 6, 2014

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Editorial Reviews


"In this sensible and carefully-reasoned book, Howard Schweber tackles the central question of liberal political theory: how to justify state action in the face of an abiding and often quite unreasonable pluralism. Schweber's knowledge of contemporary debates is near-encyclopedic, and his dissection of the theoretical underpinnings of all major schools of deliberative democracy is compelling. His alternative of a 'listener-centric' theory of public justification proves a useful corrective to competing theories that end up, on closer examination, being either unduly inclusive or restrictive. In Democracy and Authenticity, Schweber has crafted a challenging new theory of deliberative democracy that political philosophers, constitutional scholars, and defenders of the politics of authenticity will have to take seriously."
- Richard Boyd, Associate Professor of Government, Georgetown University

"Professor Schweber has written an exceptionally erudite study of justification in a liberal culture. His assertion that liberalism often requires a certain inauthenticity is original, fascinating, and a challenge to much contemporary orthodoxy."
- Mark Graber, Professor of Law and Government, University of Maryland, Carey School of Law

"Tribalism is not an arcane premodern phenomenon but rather a trait to be found in democracies as different as those of Pakistan, Israel, and the United States, notes Howard Schweber. Defending liberal concerns about the deleterious impact of tribalism on politics, Schweber treats likely critics and allies with equal seriousness as he makes the case for practices of public justification (not public reason) that are neither subjectivist nor perfectionist. Even those of us who have argued against treating justification as the essential work of political theory will be compelled to reconsider after reading this ambitious and fair-minded book."
- Bonnie Honig, author of Emergency Politics: Paradox, Law, Democracy

"A fierce defense of liberalism. Schweber warns against the politics of authenticity and accommodations of pluralism that go too far."
- Robert L. Tsai, Professor of Law, American University, and author of Eloquence and Reason

"Interrogating scores of contemporary texts in liberal-democratic theory, Schweber finds most of them contaminated by commitments to authenticity--a lingering "atavistic attachement" connecting political life to deeply held identities and beliefs, especially religious, ethnocentric, and patriotic... A forensically erudite and vigorous academic performance. Summing Up: Highly recommended." -E.J. Eisenach, emeritus, University of Tulsa, CHOICE Magazine

Book Description

In Democracy and Authenticity Professor Howard Schweber examines a basic problem for liberal democracies. When a political entity is characterized by diversity of identities and values, what kinds of justifications are appropriate for coercive government actions? In particular, the author argues that justifications based on particular religious doctrines inaccessible to nonadherents cannot be a proper basis for government actions that affect everyone. Schweber develops a model of public justification intended to guide citizens in a liberal democracy through the work of creating policies that satisfy their responsibilities to one another.

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