Democracy, Political Power, and Authority

Social Research 77 (2):1049-1074 (2010)

This article explores the conditions of possibility for democracy through the analysis of power and authority. Political power, as distinct from coercion, is the key to democracy, as a set of institutions for managing conflict. These institutions presuppose authority, which constitutes a performative act that is validated relative to local perceptions of reasonableness. Democratic power constitutes a nonzero-sum institutionalization of conflict reproduced through the structuring of authority relative to certain principles that allow for repeat play, including equality, impartiality and separation of spheres. This presupposes a democratic subject who is restrained and accountable.
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