1st Edition

Political Pluralism, Disagreement and Justice
The Case for Polycentric Democracy

ISBN 9780367728892
Published December 18, 2020 by Routledge
234 Pages

USD $48.95

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Book Description

This book poses the question: How can we organize society in such a way that our disagreement about facts and norms works to the benefit of everyone? In response, it makes the argument for polycentric democracy, a political arrangement consisting of various political units that enjoy different degrees of independence.

It is argued that to progress towards justice, we first need to change our attitude towards reasonable disagreement. Theorists have always viewed reasonable disagreement as nuisance, if not as a threat. However, this work puts forward that the diversity of perspectives which underlie reasonable disagreement should be viewed as a resource to be harvested rather than a threat to be tamed. Resting on two key arguments, the author proposes the idea of polycentric democracy as the most capable method of making pluralism productive. The book explores what such a political order might look like and concludes that only an institutional system which is capable of profiting from diversity, such as polycentric democracy, might reasonably be expected to generate an overlapping consensus.

Continuing in the tradition of Karl Popper and Friedrich August von Hayek, this book lies at the intersection of philosophy, political economy and political theory. It will be of great interest to academics and scholars working in philosophy, politics and economics.

Table of Contents

List of illustrations. Acknowledgements. Introduction.
Part I: Escaping modus vivendi 1. The model: debating friends. 2. Rawls: property-owning democracy. 3. Gutmann and Thompson: deliberative democracy. 4. Buchanan: the neoliberal state. 5. Escaping modus vivendi: summary.
Part II: How to make use of diversity? 6. Diversity: nuisance or asset? 7. Deliberation and the gains of diversity. 8. Polycentric paradigm.
Part III: Polycentric democracy 9. A polycentric political order. 10.The argument for polycentric democracy. 11. Concluding remarks.
References. Index.

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Julian F. Müller is a Research Associate at the University of Hamburg, Germany. He works at the intersection between political philosophy, social epistemology and political economy. His research into political disagreement has won several research awards.


Political Pluralism, Disagreement and Justice is a powerful and original defense of a polycentric political order. And it is an important contribution to a fresh approach to political philosophy, “New Diversity Theory,” according to which moral diversity is not moral reasoning gone awry, or a feature of free societies to be managed, but a fundamental moral phenomenon that can be a resource to discover better ways of living together. This book shows Julian Müller to be one of the young, innovative, thinkers who may well change the face of political philosophy. Gerald Gaus, University of Arizona, USA

Julian Müller’s book is not only one of the best introductions and accounts of the increasingly influential literature on polycentric governance systems but also it is an important contribution to it, advancing in significant ways the frontier of our understanding of polycentric democracy in both the analytical-explanatory and the normative-applied directions. Paul Dragos Aligica, George Mason University, USA

This essay brings together problems from political theory with tools from epistemology and economics to provide a very astute tour de horizon of a great deal of scholarship whose individual elements often remain out of touch with one another. One of the themes of the work is that diversity of judgment is a tool and not merely a problem. Müller shows how bringing together a diversity of ideas and approaches can help us understand problems about diversity itself. Fred D’Agostino, The University of Queensland, Australia