Challenges of Inequality to Democracy

Richard Bellamy, Wolfgang Merkel, Rajeev Bhargava, Juliana Bidadanure, Thomas Christiano, Ulrike Felt, Colin Hay, Lily Lamboy, Thamy Pogrebinschi, Graham Smith, Gayil Talshir, Nadia Urbinati, Mieke Verloo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Democracy, as we understand it, is a process of collective decision- making among persons, which issues in collectively binding norms for the society of those persons. It is a process of decision- making in which persons participate as equals in determining the legal and conventional norms that bind them and in which the group of persons, taken collectively, are sovereign. Democracy can be understood as a descriptive term, referring to political societies that actually exist, or as a normative ideal for the evaluation of political societies. Our focus in this chapter is primarily on the basic moral principles that can justify this egalitarian process of collective decision- making and on the challenges to understanding and realizing this ideal in the modern world. After an initial account of the basic principle and the social and institutional realization of this principle, we address the challenges to articulating and implementing this principle that arise due to the reality of economic inequality and the religious, ethnic, gender, and racial pluralism of modern societies, and to the fact that state- based democratic systems operate within a larger global society. We then discuss and evaluate the appropriateness of democratic institutions, procedures, and organizations to translate the moral principles into the structural grammar of present- day democracies and to what extent they can guarantee the fundamental principles and normative promises of democracy. As we will see, the ideas of equality and sovereignty at the base of democracy cannot be fully appreciated without a grasp of the pluralism, complexity, and global interconnectedness of modern societies.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationRethinking Society for the 21st Century
Subtitle of host publicationReport of the International Panel on Social Progress: Volume 2: Political Regulation, Governance, and Societal Transformations
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9781108399647
ISBN (Print)9781108423137
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2018.


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