Must Realists Be Pessimists About Democracy?

Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
In this paper we show how a realistic normative democratic theory can work within the constraints set by the most pessimistic empirical results about voting behavior and elite capture of the policy process. After setting out the empirical evidence and discussing some extant responses by political theorists, we argue that the evidence produces a two-pronged challenge for democracy: an epistemic challenge concerning the quality and focus of decision-making and an oligarchic challenge concerning power concentration. To address the challenges we then put forward three main normative claims, each of which is compatible with the evidence. We start with (i) a critique of the epistocratic position commonly thought to be supported by the evidence. We then introduce (ii) a qualified critique of referenda and other forms of plebiscite, and (iii) an outline of a tribune-based system of popular control over oligarchic influence on the policy process. Our discussion points towards a renewal of democracy in a plebeian but not plebiscitarian direction: attention to the relative power of social classes matters more than formal dispersal of power through voting. We close with some methodological reflections about the compatibility between our normative claims and the realist program in political philosophy.
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2020-03-25
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
42 ( #41,690 of 47,326 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
42 ( #19,241 of 47,326 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.