The Possibility of Democratic Autonomy

Philosophy and Public Affairs 50 (4):467-498 (2022)
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What makes democracy valuable? One traditional answer holds that participating in democratic self-government amounts to a kind of autonomy: it enables citizens to be the authors of their political affairs. Many contemporary philosophers, however, are skeptical. We are autonomous, they argue, when important features of our lives are up to us, but in a democracy we merely have a say in a process of collective choice. In this paper, we defend the possibility of democratic autonomy, by advancing a conception of it which is impervious to this objection. At the core of our account is the idea of joint authorship. You are a joint author of something when that thing expresses your joint intentions. Democracy may not make any one of us sole author of our political affairs, but it can make us their joint authors. It is in such joint authorship, we claim, that the intrinsic value of democratic self-government consists.

Author Profiles

Jake Zuehl
New York University
Adam Lovett
Australian Catholic University


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