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Partisanship and Political Liberalism in Diverse Societies$
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Matteo Bonotti

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198739500

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198739500.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Partisanship and Political Liberalism in Diverse Societies

Matteo Bonotti

Oxford University Press

Since its publication in 1993, John Rawls’s Political Liberalism (2005a) has been central to contemporary debates in normative political theory. Rawls’s main goal in this book was to explain how citizens endorsing diverse conceptions of the good (ethical, religious, and philosophical) could live together under liberal democratic institutions. For this reason, his theory has strongly influenced contemporary debates concerning political legitimacy, democratic theory, toleration, and multiculturalism. Yet, despite the immense body of literature which has been produced since Rawls’s book was published, very little has been said or written regarding the place of political parties and partisanship (by which I mean participation in politics through political parties) within political liberalism. This is surprising. In spite of the ongoing decline of party membership across the western world, parties still remain central players in the democratic game of liberal democratic polities, and still play an important role in articulating diverse social demands. One would have therefore expected political theorists who, like Rawls, are concerned with issues of pluralism and diversity, to take an interest in the role of parties. Yet Rawls’s references to parties are brief and scattered, and it is not clear from his work (or from the work of those scholars who have examined his theory in detail) what role (if any) parties can play within political liberalism....

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