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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Pluralism and Diversity: For the Sake of Equal Respect

Political Theory
Normative Theory
Transitional justice
Sylvie Blahova
Masaryk University
Sylvie Blahova
Masaryk University

From the very beginning of the liberal theory, pluralism has been its inherent part. I would like to argue that the presence of pluralism gives rise to two general questions at two levels of argumentation. Firstly, there is a constitutional level where the question is how to justify political power in conditions of pluralism. Secondly, there is a post-constitutional level and the related question of ensuring justice regarding differences among people. I would like to claim that the purpose of these questions is to ensure equal respect that is the moral basis of both public justification of political power and justice. Following this, I would like to develop on a specific understanding of the justification of political power that would be in conformity with the principle of equal respect. For that reason, I argue that some kind of the so-called qualified acceptability criterion is inevitable. In particular, I advocate the concept of reasonableness. Apart from this, I would also like to emphasize the principle of reciprocity and its fundamental importance for public reason as it helps to create a valuable form of relationship.
One of the characteristics of the proposed justification is that its aim is to achieve consensus. However, it can be argued that it may not reflect the importance of differences for certain people. Considering this, I would like to argue that although – for the sake of our political community – we are striving for consensus at the level of the public justification of political power, it does not mean that a person cannot publicly express any particularities. The point is that when justifying political power, one must put aside any differences in order to reach agreement with others within the political community; nevertheless, it does not imply that one cannot express the particularities publicly and warn of the importance of these differences for herself. Here, I follow the principle of equal respect and argue that it is a general claim of everyone. Although I acknowledge that such a respect cannot be gained out-of-duty, I argue that this may lead to the dead end, as gaining respect then depends on the will of the one who is about to recognize. Albeit we cannot gain respect conditionally, I would like to claim that the relationship we have with others in the political community may be an important basis for the very process of recognition. If we really want to follow the character of the justification of political power I have proposed and appreciate the valuable relationship created by accepting the criterion of reciprocity, we, in fact, cannot disrespect people in different spheres of public life for we would deny the relationship we have developed. To summarize it, I would like to claim that even though we cannot be forced to respect anyone, the very nature of the political community that appreciates equal respect among people would not be feasible if we disrespected people in other spheres of lives.
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