Taking Modus Vivendi Seriously: Against McCabe’s Principled Endorsement
The aim of the paper is to outline a proposal of modus vivendi theory that can be a valuable alternative to political liberalism. As widely known, Rawlsian modus vivendi is subject to manifold criticisms and proved to be deeply undesirable. A previous attempt to rethink modus vivendi has been made by David McCabe in his Modus Vivendi Liberalism (2010). I claim that his attempt is not satisfactory. McCabe’s strategy is to substitute the instrumental endorsement of toleration, which is the most essential and problematic characteristic of modus vivendi, with a principled one. My aim is to show that modus vivendi shall indeed be instrumentally endorsed and that this does not prevent it from being theoretically valuable. I claim that in order to take modus vivendi seriously in must be thought out within the paradigm of realist normative political theory and that it should take the form of a compromise. I begin by identifying a set of objections raised against both Rawls’s and McCabe’s accounts of modus vivendi. Those are: lack of stability, radicalism (concerning Rawls) and the assumption of a principled endorsement (concerning McCabe). In order to prove my proposal of modus vivendi to be preferable to both Rawls’s and McCabe’s ones it should be able to resist all these objections. In the second section I turn to the pars construens. I identify three requirements that a realist modus vivendi should fulfil: 1. Accounting for the fact of pluralism as it is, 2. Being descriptively adequate, 3. Being practically relevant. I then analyse the features of the compromise underpinning modus vivendi, showing that they are consistent with the requirements and able to face the objections. I conclude by showing that a realist account of modus vivendi can be supported by an instrumental consent.