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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: November 2011

7 - Arguments from Consequences

from Part Two - Responding to the Case for Inclusion


In this chapter and the next one, I focus on four arguments for inclusion based on consequentialist arguments: a pluralistic argument exemplified by Michael McConnell, an appeal to culture exemplified by the arguments of Seyla Benhabib, a republican critique exemplified by Sheldon Wolin, and agonistic challenges exemplified by Chantal Mouffe and Bonnie Honig. While I continue to assert that the principle of public justification is an essential bedrock of democratic governance that is consistent with liberalism, each of these challenging critiques has important lessons to teach about the significance and contours of that principle.

To begin with, let us reiterate the basic consequentialist concerns that give rise to the case for constraint in the first place. First and foremost, there is the Madisonian fear of the divisive effects of religion on democratic politics. Closely related is the concern that allowing religious justifications for state actions will weaken the capacity of nonadherents of majority religions to feel full-fledged loyalty to their nations. One reason is structural. Members of minority groups who are subject to laws grounded in justifications that are accessible only to members of the majority may conclude that the game is permanently rigged against them. What is lost in this situation is what Ian Shapiro calls “institutionalized uncertainty about the future,” meaning that those who lose in one round of policy making will remain committed to the system if they believe that there is a chance of victory in the future. The existence of a single dominant faction achieves stability in outcomes and reliable realization of preference order, “but at the price of turning loyal opposition (where the democratic system is endorsed though the government of the day is opposed) into disloyal opposition, where those who lose try to overthrow the system itself” (Shapiro, 2006: 14).

Banerjee, Neela 2008
Wisconsin, E.D. 2009