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The Notion of Acquiescence in Political Ethics

The truism that contemporary democracies increasingly lose the underlying moral consensus provokes mixed reactions. Some fear it would pose a threat before the future of the liberal principles, while others triumph that, finally, democracies grew to be vibrant enough to embrace the previously ignored concerns of citizens. What is at stake in this debate is not merely one's position on a political spectrum between right and left, but, more importantly, a fundamental problem of either consensus or dissensus being the key principle of normative political theory. This paper explores an alternative to both alarmists and triumphalists. Specifically, it discusses a less known Nicholas Rescher's idea of acquiescence and proposes it as a guiding signpost of political ethics in a liberal democracy. The paper unfolds as follows. I first define the concept of acquiescence and explain how it is different from toleration, acceptance of coercion, and various politically passive attitudes. Further, I place the aspiration for acquiescence within the context of realist political theory. Finally, I explain its advantages over both consensus and dissensus seeking models as well as its limitations and its urgent need of being supplemented by other demands of political ethics.

Viktor Poletko, Candidate at the Institute of Philosophy of KU Leuven in Belgium and a senior lecturer of the political science department and Ethics-Politics-Economics program at the Ukrainian Catholic University


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