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I’m a political theorist in the Department of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam, and the co-editor of the European Journal of Political Theory. My main current project is a realist critical theory of legitimacy. This stems from the intersection of a number of interests: (i) methodological issues in political theory, e.g. realism vs moralism and, relatedly but separately, ideal vs non-ideal theory; (ii) the historical development liberal ideology; (iii) the normative status of political authority; (iv) the accommodation of diversity. More generally, I’m concerned with the relationship between the descriptive and the normative study of society.


  • PhD in philosophy, University of St Andrews, 2008

  • Visiting graduate student, University of Washington, 2002-2003

  • BA in philosophy, University of Pavia, 2002


Full texts of most publications available here.


  • Legitimacy: A Realist View. Cambridge: Polity (‘Key Concepts’ series) – under contract.

Journal Articles

  • ‘Stanley on Ideology, or How To De-moralise Democracy’, Global Discourse, forthcoming 2017 [Book symposium review essay, to be published with a reply by Jason Stanley].

  • ‘The EU’s Democratic Deficit in a Realist Key: Multilateral Governance, Popular Sovereignty, and Critical Responsiveness’, Transnational Legal Theory, 8.1 (2017): 22-41 (with Jan Pieter Beetz).

  • ‘Political Realism as Ideology Critique’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 20.3 (2017): 334-348 (with Janosch Prinz).

  • ‘Facts, Principles, and (Real) Politics’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (2016): 505-520.

  • ‘Can Realism Move Beyond a Methodenstreit?’, Political Theory 3 (2016): 410-420 [review article].

  • ‘Political Norms and Moral Values’, Journal of Philosophical Research 4 (2015): 455-458 (with Rob Jubb). Published alongside a reply by Eva Erman and Niklas Möller (‘Why Political Realists Should Not Be Afraid of Moral Values’), and a rejoinder by Jubb and Rossi (‘Why Moralists Should Be Afraid of Political Values’).

  • ‘Realism in Normative Political Theory’, Philosophy Compass, 9/10 (2014): 689-701 (with Matt Sleat).

  • ‘Legitimacy, Democracy and Public Justification: Rawls’ Political Liberalism vs Gaus’ Justificatory Liberalism’,Res Publica: A Journal of Moral, Legal and Social Philosophy1 (2014): 9-25.

  • ‘Legitimacy and Consensus in Rawls’ Political Liberalism,Iride: Filosofia e discussione pubblica1 (2014): 37-56.

  • ‘Pluralism Slippery Slopes and Democratic Public Discourse’, Theoria: A Journal of Social and Political Theory 137 (2013): 29-47 (with Maria Paola Ferretti).

  • ‘Pluralism, Preferences and Deliberation: A Critique of Sen’s Constructive Argument for Democracy’, Journal of Social Philosophy 2 (2013): 129-145 (with Carlo Argenton).

  • ‘Compromise, Consensus, Justice and Legitimacy’, Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy4 (2013): 557-572.

  • ‘Can Tolerance Be Grounded in Equal Respect?’, European Journal of Political Theory3 (2013): 240-252. Portuguese translation forthcoming in Fundamento: Revista de Pesquisa em Filosofia (Brasil).

  • ‘Justice, Legitimacy, and (Normative) Authority for Political Realists’ Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 2 (2012): 149-164.

  • ‘Modus Vivendi, Consensus, and (Realist) Liberal Legitimacy’, Public Reason2 (2010): 21-39.

  • ‘Reality and Imagination in Political Theory and Practice: On Raymond Geuss’s Realism’, European Journal of Political Theory, 4 (2010): 204-12 [Review article].

  • ‘Liberalism, Modernity, and Communal Being’, Imprints: Egalitarian Theory and Practice, 10.3 (2010): 257-64 [review article].

  • ‘The Exemption That Confirms the Rule: Reflections on Proceduralism and the UK Hybrid Embryos Controversy’, Res Publica3 (2009): 237-50.

  • ‘Liberal Democracy and the Challenge of Ethical Diversity’, Human Affairs: Postdisciplinary Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences1 (2008): 10-22.

Edited Books

  • Justice, Legitimacy, and Diversity: Political Authority Between Realism and Moralism (with Emanuela Ceva). London: Routledge, 2012. Contributors: Emanuela Ceva, Gerald F. Gaus, John Horton, Sebastiano Maffettone, Simon Cabulea May, Glen Newey, Valeria Ottonelli, Enzo Rossi.

  • Oltre le culture. Valori e contesti della comunicazione interculturale (with Emanuele Bardone). Como and Pavia: Ibis, 2004. Contributors: Ian Carter, Maria Paola Ferretti, John Horton, Will Kymlicka, Lorenzo Magnani, Vincenzo Matera, Paolo Ramat, Mario Ricciardi, Salvatore Veca.

Book Chapters and Other Publications (Selection)

  • ‘Wither the Liberal Social Contract? On the Reception of Rawlsian Political Liberalism’, in K. Becker & I. Thompson, eds, The Cambridge History of Philosophy: 1945-2010 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), forthcoming 2018.

  • ‘Understanding Religion, Governing Religion: A Realist Perspective’, in C. Laborde & A. Bardon, eds, Religion in Liberal Political Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2017.

  • ‘Can Modus Vivendi Save Liberalism from Moralism?’, in J. Horton, M. Westphal & U. Willems, eds, The Political Theory of Modus Vivendi (Dordrecht: Springer), forthcoming 2017.

  • ‘Contested Identities and Spatial Marginalisation: The Case of Gypsy-Travellers in Wales’ (With F. Chiesa), in S. Moroni & D. Weberman, eds, Space and Pluralism (CEU Press, 2016).

  • ‘La persistenza della modernità’, in S. Barbagallo (ed.), La condizione transmoderna (Rome: Aracne, 2010).

  • ‘Usi e abusi del piano inclinato in circostanze di pluralismo’ (With M.P. Ferretti), Notizie di Politeia95 (2009): 57-71.

  • The entries ‘Freedom of Speech’ and ‘Natural Law’ in The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy (A.C. Grayling, N. Goulder and A. Pyle, eds). London: Thoemmes Continuum, 2006.

  • Occasional reviews and opinion pieces for Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Times Higher Education, openDemocracy, Trouw, Het Parool, and other outlets.


Principal investigator: ‘Legitimacy Beyond Consent: Confronting Supranational and Transnational Power Structures’ (‘Vidi’ Grant, Dutch National Research Organisation). 

The idea of a crisis of democracy is frequently invoked to explain a range of phenomena plaguing European states in the era of declining national sovereignty: disaffection, polarisation, fragmentation. The crisis is usually understood as a crisis of legitimacy, and so as a failure of gathering consent through representation. This project challenges that understanding of the crisis by proposing a novel account of legitimacy, driving a wedge between consent and representation.

Traditional theories of democratic legitimacy are voluntaristic: representation legitimises the exercise of political power through consent, by making it receptive to the will of those over whom it is exercised. This project challenges democratic voluntarism in all its forms: those grounded in actual or hypothetical consent, as well as those grounded in deliberative and aggregative proceduralism. It abandons voluntarism by acknowledging that legitimate authority is necessarily coercive, but does so without thereby falling into an idea that ‘might is right’.

The alternative proposal is critical responsiveness: political coercion can be legitimate when it is responsive to stakeholders’ values (vetted for ideological distortions). The shift from a voluntarist to a values-based theory of legitimacy enables exploration of two key, related, questions posed by globalisation to European democracies:

  • What is the proper remit of the supranational authority of the European Union?

  • To what extent can the transnational political power wielded by economic actors(corporations, IMF, WTO) be made compatible with liberal democracy?

Theories of legitimacy should solve Rousseau’s paradox: “Man is born free: but everywhere he is in chains.” This project responds to the insight that solutions that dissolve the chains—that is, that show that legitimate authority is not coercive—are not satisfactory. The way to tackle the paradox is ask whether the chains make sense in the light of the values of those who bear them.

Project researchers:

  • Enzo Rossi (PI)

  • Paul Raekstad (postdoc)

  • Gordon Arlen (postdoc, from Jan. 2018)

  • Uğur Aytaç (PhD, from Oct. 2017)

Enzo Rossi

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