Social Theory and Practice

Volume 46, Issue 1, January 2020

Baldwin Wong
Pages 231-255

Public Reason and Structural Coercion
In Defense of the Coercion Account as the Ground of Public Reason

Political liberals usually assume the coercion account, which argues that state actions should be publicly justified because they coerce citizens. Recently some critics object this account for it overlooks that some policies are non-coercive but still require public justification. My article argues that, instead of understanding coercion as particular laws or policies, it should be understood as the exercise of collective political power that shapes the basic structure. This revised coercion account explains why those ostensibly non-coercive policies are in fact coercive. Moreover, I argue that the alternative accounts suggested by critics fail, unless they assume the revised coercion account.

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