Economic theories of democratic legitimacy and the normative role of an ideal consensus

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 12 (2):156-178 (2013)
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Economic theories of democratic legitimacy have criticized deliberative accounts of democratic legitimacy on the grounds that they do not represent a practical possibility and that they create conditions that make actual democracies worse. It is not simply that they represent the wrong ideal. Rather, they are too idealistic – failing to show proper regard for the cognitive and moral limitations of persons and the depth of disagreement in democratic society. This article aims to show that the minimalist criterion of democratic legitimacy is self-defeating and that even if there are minimal cognitive, moral, and social requirements for the possibility of practicable deliberative democracy, these limitations do not necessarily impose insuperable barriers for democratic deliberation as the normative basis of democratic legitimacy. Thus, the limiting facts do not dictate the structure of appropriate normative models of democracy in the way minimalists have supposed.
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