Rawlsian Justice, Legitimacy and Deliberative Social Evaluation

Fabienne Peter

Table of Contents


The evaluation of alternative social states – judgements about their efficiency and equity – is an essential part of the economic discipline. The premise in much of contemporary economics is that social evaluation should be based on individual utilities or preferences. Although it is not often explicitly phrased in these words, the premise can be seen as one of democratic political legitimacy. This paper examines the relationship between legitimacy and the scope of social evaluation by contrasting the premise on which much of economics builds with the legitimacy requirement that emerges from the conception of deliberative democracy. It is argued that by virtue of the notion of legitimacy inherent in deliberative democracy, it opens up space for social evaluation beyond of what seems possible from the perspective of the dominating economic approach.

Key words

aggregation of preferences, social states, deliberative democraty, political liberalism

JEL Classification: A12