Democratic Authority: A Philosophical Framework

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Princeton University Press, Aug 3, 2009 - Political Science - 312 pages
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Democracy is not naturally plausible. Why turn such important matters over to masses of people who have no expertise? Many theories of democracy answer by appealing to the intrinsic value of democratic procedure, leaving aside whether it makes good decisions. In Democratic Authority, David Estlund offers a groundbreaking alternative based on the idea that democratic authority and legitimacy must depend partly on democracy's tendency to make good decisions.

Just as with verdicts in jury trials, Estlund argues, the authority and legitimacy of a political decision does not depend on the particular decision being good or correct. But the "epistemic value" of the procedure--the degree to which it can generally be accepted as tending toward a good decision--is nevertheless crucial. Yet if good decisions were all that mattered, one might wonder why those who know best shouldn't simply rule.

Estlund's theory--which he calls "epistemic proceduralism"--avoids epistocracy, or the rule of those who know. He argues that while some few people probably do know best, this can be used in political justification only if their expertise is acceptable from all reasonable points of view. If we seek the best epistemic arrangement in this respect, it will be recognizably democratic--with laws and policies actually authorized by the people subject to them.

 

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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

This is a great work in political philosophy and I certainly enjoyed reading it. It's very well written and it covers new ground in a penetrating and interesting manner. It offers far more food for ... Read full review

Contents

Democratic Authority
1
Truth and Despotism
21
An Acceptability Requirement
40
The Limits of Fair Procedure
65
The Flight from Substance
85
Epistemic Proceduralism
98
Authority and Normative Consent
117
Original Authority and the DemocracyJury Analogy
136
The Real Speech Situation
184
Why Not an Epistocracy of the Educated?
206
The Irrelevance of the Jury Theorem
223
Rejecting the DemocracyContractualism Analogy
237
Utopophobia Concession and Aspiration in Democratic Theory
258
Notes
277
Bibliography
295
Index
303

How Would Democracy Know?
159

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About the author (2009)

David M. Estlund is professor of philosophy at Brown University.

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