A multidimensional account of democratic legitimacy: how to make robust decisions in a non-idealized deliberative context


This paper analyses the possibility of granting legitimacy to democratic decisionmaking procedures in a context of deep pluralism. We defend a multidimensional account according to which a legitimate system needs to grant, on the one hand, that citizens should be included on an equal footing and acknowledged as reflexive political agents rather than mere beneficiaries of policies, and, on the other hand, that their decisions have an epistemic quality. While Estlund’s account of imperfect epistemic proceduralism might seem to embody a dualistic conception of democratic legitimacy, we point out that it is not able to recognize citizens as reflexive political agents and is grounded in an idealized model of the circumstances of deliberation. To overcome these ambiguities, we develop an account of democratic legitimacy according to which disagreement is the proper expression of citizens’ reflexive agency and the attribution of epistemic authority does not stem from a major expertise or specific ability, but it comes through the public confrontation among disagreeing agents. Consequently, the epistemic value of deliberation should be derived from the reasons-giving process rather than from the reference to the alleged quality of its outcomes. In this way, we demonstrate the validity of the multidimensional perspective of legitimacy, yet abstain from introducing any outcome-oriented criterion. Finally, we argue that this account of legitimacy is well suited for modeling deliberative democracy as a decision-making procedure that respects the agency of every citizen and grants her opportunity to influence public choices.

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Federica Liveriero
Universita' degli Studi di Pavia

References found in this work

Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
Reflection and Disagreement.Adam Elga - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):478–502.
Epistemology.Richard Feldman - 2003 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 68 (2):429-429.

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