Legitimate Expectations, Legal Transitions, and Wide Reflective Equilibrium

  • 1 Department of Government, Houghton Street, London, UK
Fergus Green
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  • Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK
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Abstract

Recent scholarly attention to ‘legitimate expectations’ and their role in legal transitions has yielded widely varying principles for distinguishing between legitimate and non-legitimate expectations. This article suggests that methodological reflection may facilitate substantive progress in the debate. Specifically, it proposes and defends the use of a wide reflective equilibrium methodology for constructing, justifying and critiquing theories of legitimate expectations and other kinds of normative theories about legal transitions. The methodology involves three levels of analysis — normative principles, their theoretical antecedents, and considered judgements about their implications in specific cases — and iteration between these three levels in an effort to ensure coherence. The payoffs from applying this methodology to the legitimate expectations debate are illustrated through a discussion of examples from the existing literature. Some proposed innovations to the methodology, including the incorporation of insights from the ideal/non-ideal theory debate, are likely to be of wider interest to political theorists.

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Moral Philosophy and Politics is an international, peer-reviewed journal for original philosophical articles on issues of public relevance. Of particular interest to the journal are the philosophical assessment of policy and its normative basis, analyses of the philosophical underpinnings or implications of political debate and reflection on the justice or injustice of the social and political structures which regulate human action.

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