Res Publica

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 103–120 | Cite as

The Irrelevance of Democracy to the Public Justification of Political Authority

Article

Abstract

Democracy can be a means to independently valuable ends and/or it can be intrinsically (or non-instrumentally) valuable. One powerful non-instrumental defence of democracy is based on the idea that only it can publicly justify political authority. I contend that this is an argument about the reasonable acceptability of political authority and about the requirements of publicity and that satisfying these requirements has nothing to do with whether a society is democratic or not. Democracy, then, plays no role in publicly justifying political authority. I also show that any non-instrumental defence of democracy must make claims about what justice requires and make several further claims that require substantial justification.

Keywords

Democracy Reasonable disagreement Justice Reasonable acceptability David Estlund Publicity Public justification 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank Chris Bertram, Harry Brighouse, Benjamin Capps, Patrick Capps, and Adina Preda for comments on the many versions of this paper. I would also like to thank members of the Philosophy Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for making me welcome during my stay there during which much of this paper was written. Finally, I would like to thank several anonymous referees for their comments.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BristolBristolUK

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