Since the publication of John Rawls's A Theory of Justice, normative democratic theory has focused principally on three tasks: refining principles of justice, clarifying the nature of political justification, and exploring the public policies required to ensure a just distribution of education, health care, and other basic resources. Much less attention has been devoted to examining the political institutions and social arrangements that might plausibly implement reasonable political principles. Moreover, the amount of attention paid to issues of organizational and institutional implementation has varied sharply across the different species of normative theory. Neoliberal theorists, concerned chiefly with protecting liberty by taming power, and essentially hostile to the affirmative state, have been far more sensitive to such issues than egalitarian-democratic theorists, who simultaneously embrace classically liberal concerns with choice, egalitarian concerns with the distribution of resources, and a republican emphasis on the values of citizen participation and public debate (we sketch such a conception below in Section I). Neglect of how such values might be implemented has deepened the vulnerability of egalitarian-democratic views to the charge of being unrealistic: “good in theory but not so good in practice.”
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