SOAS University of London

Dr Nimer Sultany Writes Article on What Good is Abstraction? From Liberal Legitimacy to Social Justice

27 September 2019

Dr. Nimer Sultany, Reader in Public Law at SOAS, argues in a new article that progressive liberal theoretical frameworks are unfit for purpose. They betray a loss of conviction and commitment to the very egalitarian ideals that progressive liberals advocate for. Specifically, his article critiques abstraction as a mode of argumentation in political and legal theory in which there is a retreat from controversial political and moral territory to establish a consensual political regime and binding legal order. It is an internal critique to liberal theory that illustrates that this abstraction does not meet the theory’s own standards and fails to achieve its declared objectives.

The main family of theories that betray this lack of conviction is “political liberalism,” as developed by eminent scholars such as John Rawls and Ronald Dworkin. Political liberalism draws a clear distinction between the ambitions of liberal justice and the institutional commitments of liberal legitimacy. Progressive liberals allow as legitimate policies and practices, such as welfare-state capitalism and neo-liberalism, that are detrimental to the very goals that they aspire to. Therefore, the egalitarian bark of progressive liberal theory is louder than its egalitarian bite. Ultimately, liberal legitimacy is not merely different from justice but it also defers justice and legitimates injustice.

Read the full article here: What Good is Abstraction? From Liberal Legitimacy to Social Justice