Does Democratic Theory Need Epistemic Standards?

Grounds for a Purely Procedural Defense of Majority Rule

in Democratic Theory
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  • 1 City College of the City University of New York caccetti@ccny.cuny.edu
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Abstract:

This article proposes a critical discussion of an increasingly influential strand of contemporary democratic theory that attempts to justify majoritarian institutions on the grounds that they are the most adequate “epistemic” means for discovering and implementing an objective standard of normative truth. The analysis is divided in two parts. In the first I show that the appeal to such epistemic standards is unnecessary because it is possible to justify majority rule on the “purely procedural” grounds that it is the best way of instantiating the values of freedom (as consent) and equality (as impartiality). In the second part I suggest that the appeal to epistemic standards is also undesirable because it conflicts with three key democratic values: autonomy (as self-government), inclusion (as lack of discrimination in terms of political competence), and pluralism (as fair representation of conflicting interests within the political process).

Contributor Notes

Carlo Invernizzi Accetti is an assistant professor of political theory at the City College of the City University of New York and associate researcher at the Center for European Studies of the Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po). He obtained a PhD in political theory from Columbia University in 2012. His book, Relativism and Religion: Why Democratic Societies Do Not Need Moral Absolutes, was published by Columbia University Press in 2015. He has another book forthcoming with Oxford University Press entitled Between Populism and Technocracy: Politics in the Age of the Crisis of Party Democracy. E-mail: caccetti@ccny.cuny.edu

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