Must Politics Be War? In Defense of Public Reason Liberalism

This page contains links to a draft of my new book, Must Politics Be War? In Defense of Public Reason Liberalism, forthcoming with Oxford University Press.


Many think that politics is essentially an arena of strategic confrontation where parties struggle to defeat their opponents. Partisans of all stripes divide people into the good and the bad—religious or rational, capitalist or worker, patriot or traitor, 1% or 99%, hateful or tolerant—and see politics as the means to victory. My book claims that this understanding of politics is mistaken. I develop an account of social order where moral and political disagreement can proceed while preserving moral peace, where people can see those they disagree with, not as targets to be defeated, but as potential friends and neighbors who can cooperate to advance the diverse and divergent ends of each. In particular, I argue that liberal political institutions can create and preserve a moral peace between persons because they can be publicly justified – or justified from multiple reasonable points of view. In this way, public reason liberalism, the version of liberal political theory that weds liberal political institutions to a required of public justification, can show that politics in a liberal society needn’t be mere institutionalized aggression by competing groups.

Here are links to the manuscript (pdf) (doc).