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Aaron Lercher

Rawls connects his idealizations with the real world of politics in several ways, among these, the Four-Stage sequence. In section 31, there is a citation to Arrow. (There is also a deprecating footnote to Buchanan and Tullock in that section.) I think this is probably a response to Arrow's impossibility theorem, but I have not yet pursued this.

Another way Rawls connects his idealization with real-world politics is his theory of the moral justification of civil disobedience. This is Rawls's main example of non-ideal (or partial compliance) politics. Civil disobedience demands an unusually idealized view of politics, as compared with other forms of political activity, but it occurs in the real world with real consequences, not on paper.

Rawls discusses how a participant in civil disobedience has to assume that society is close enough to justice for her actions to make sense. He also discusses overlapping consensus there, among other things.

At the same time, the civilly disobedient person has the same real-world problems as any participant in any political activity. These raise questions of strategy, political aims, and the possibility that one's choices of aims require the sacrifice of other aims, so the problem you raise about zero-sum outcomes. Tradeoffs, however, occur in the third of the four stages of decision-making, whereas civil disobedience addresses citizens in at an earlier stage of this idealized process.

Forrester's book disappointed me on civil disobedience, despite all her archival work on it. Perhaps that is because she assumes that political theory has only certain kinds of real-world effects. (Also, it is hard to be a successful academic while also having done enough civil disobedience to reflect on its practice.)

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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