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Gaus, Hayek, and the place of civil religion in a free society

Kevin Vallier

The Review of Austrian Economics, 2017, vol. 30, issue 3, No 5, 327-352

Abstract: Abstract In The Order of Public Reason, Gerald Gaus uses Hayekian insights to give a contractarian justification for the specific social rules the rules that comprise the social order of a free people. But in doing so, Gaus inadvertently endorses a kind of skepticism about our ability to justify the institutions that comprise our social order as a whole. The disadvantage of a political theory so pervasively skeptical is that, while contractors can arrive at a series of specific solutions to their social problems, they have no way to assure themselves that their moral nature and their moral practices as a whole are sufficiently sound that the rules they endorse are genuinely morally binding. I argue that this problem can be solved in political practice through the adoption of a civil religion. Civil religions provide narratives and social practices that assure members of free orders that their regimes are good or justified on the whole. In this way, we can introduce the idea of civil religion into contractarian political theory as a social technology for sustaining a free social order.

Keywords: F.A. Hayek; John Rawls; Gerald Gaus; Civil religion; Public reason; B25; B31; B53; P16; Z12 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1007/s11138-016-0359-7

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