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SAGE Publishing




In his new book, Constitutional Essentials, Frank Michelman provides a splendid elaboration and defense of “the constitutional theory of political liberalism” implicit in John Rawls’s classic work, Political Liberalism. In this essay, we make some observations about what a difference 30 years makes, comparing the political and constitutional climate in which Rawls wrote and published Political Liberalism in 1993 with the climate in which Frank wrote and published this exegesis of it. We focus on (1) changes in our circumstances of pluralism, including the accentuation of polarization and unreasonable views, and (2) the simultaneous breakdown of trust in the Supreme Court authoritatively to resolve disputes concerning constitutional essentials. Throughout, we acknowledge and seek to reckon with the possibility that Michelman may have given Rawls’s liberal principle of legitimacy its fullest, most coherent account just at the moment when the possibility of realizing it seems to be passing.


article forthcoming in 2024

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