Monday, July 12, 2021

Recommended by John McCormick

There is a long history of controversy concerning the best way to vindicate democracy as a desirable and legitimate and/or authoritative political regime.1

1 Political legitimacy and authority have a complex relationship. In democratic theory, most scholars take the two to be related: John Rawls refers to the ‘legitimacy of the general structure of authority’ (1993, p. 136); Tom Christiano, following Joseph Raz, explicitly states that ‘the idea of legitimate authority as a right to rule to which citizens owe obedience gives each citizen a moral duty to obey, which it owes to the authority’ (2008, p. 242); Fabienne Peter uses legitimacy to qualify the notion of political authority, which under democratic institutions belongs to the people—‘democratic legitimacy thus qualifies the right of the democratic constituency to impose laws and regulations on itself’ (2009, p. 56); according to Philip Pettit, authority and legitimacy go together (2012, p. 149). However, some are more resistant to tying up the two. Allen Buchanan famously distinguishes political legitimacy from authority, claiming that the latter concept is dispensable (2002, p. 703) and he takes democratic decision- making to be a condition for both legitimacy and obligation (2002, p. 714). Daniel Viehoff refers only to ‘genuine authority’ and avoids talk of legitimacy altogether (2014, p. 340). David Estlund (2008) and Niko Kolodny (2014a, b) distinguish between legitimacy, which identifies moral permissibility of coercion, and authority, which constitutes the moral power to issue authoritative commands. For the purposes of this article, however, no distinction is required.

—What exactly is the definition of a "long" history? 
—Legitimate, to whom?
The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures.

Democracy doesn't need the vindication of philosophers, of John Rawls, Joseph RazDavid Estlund, John Roemer, or Chiara Destri, never mind Locke or Mill. Democracy doesn't reduce to a "truth". It's an amalgam, cobbled together by participants in a vulgar theater philosophers claim to rise above.

Googling Destri I found a video with Jan-Werner Mueller. It makes sense.

Following academics, the whole thing becomes depressing. I used to defend Jadaliyya but it still ends up the elite pretension to leftism without irony, because academics now are incapable of it.

I've met two men who came to the US from Europe at the beginning of WWII, got off the boat, signed up and returned to fight. One was a director of Wildenstein and Co. and the other was Leo Castelli. The director of Wildenstein was a third generation dealer; he sold to the rich but was bourgeois to the core. He told me his history while standing in the hallway of the building.  He raised his foot on an antique chair and leaned on his knee. "This country has been at war almost continuously since 1945". He shook his head. The American revolution was one of the few that hadn't devolved into tyranny, and this is what it had become.  He was an antifascist because like the tattooed and scarred Parisian pimp, he "understood", but he despaired at Cold War militarism. He was a high bourgeois anti-anti-communist.

The first time I met him I'd walked in off the street and he'd come out of an office. He said they didn't get much traffic without appointment, but it was a public gallery. He was smiling. Anyone who knew enough to want to be there should be welcome. I asked him the next time I saw him if he was a Wildenstein. His eyes widened "Oh no!". It seemed less a denial of wealth than of vulgarity.

It's a little embarrassing that I have to add links to every name. Reading a reference by a writer for The Nation to "the critic Hilton Cramer" reminded me how little people know these days about even the recent past. Being famous for fifteen minutes means being forgotten fifteen minutes later.

I've said it before: idiots who call themselves socialists now would have been Clintonites in 92, with the same enthusiasm of the present.

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