Republican Freedom, Popular Control, and Collective Action

American Journal of Political Science (forthcoming)
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Republicans hold that people are dominated merely in virtue of others' having unconstrained abilities to frustrate their choices. They argue further that public officials may dominate citizens unless subject to popular control. Critics identify a dilemma. To maintain the possibility of popular control, republicans must attribute to the people an ability to control public officials merely in virtue of the possibility that they might coordinate their actions. But if the possibility of coordination suffices for attributing abilities to groups, then, even in the best case, countless groups will be dominating because it will be possible for their members to coordinate their actions with the aim of frustrating others' choices. We argue the dilemma is apparent only. To make our argument, we present a novel interpretation of the republican concept of domination with the help of a game-theoretic model that clarifies the significance of collective action problems for republican theory.

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Sean Ingham
University of California, San Diego


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