Public Reason: Vol. 13, No. 1, 2021
Beyond Democracy Promotion: Kant, Rawls, and a Liberal Alternative
Huw Williams

Abstract. This article argues for a more radical philosophical approach to the problems of democracy promotion, one which is grounded in John Rawls’ view of international politics. His circumspect, Kantian perspective contrasts with other attempts to justify an adventurist, interventionist foreign policy, also sometimes labelled as Kantian. With respect to democracy promotion, Rawls’ view contrasts significantly with a reformist ‘critical’ perspective, and suggests we should move beyond this policy paradigm entirely. Indeed, it is claimed this Kantian perspective offers a robust alternative liberal narrative, which takes tolerance and recognition of non-democratic ‘decency’ as a more apt starting point for Western foreign policy. This is a gradualist philosophical perspective that potentially encourages greater internati curity, more stable development – and possibly more democratization in the long term.


Williams, Huw. 2021. Beyond Democracy Promotion: Kant, Rawls, and a Liberal Alternative. Public Reason 13 (1): 21-46.