Conferring legitimacy on democratic inputs

In fixating in these ways on ‘the simple act of voting’, political scientists are not alone. In many ways, they thereby mimic longstanding concerns of democratic theory itself. Voting has long been regarded as the consummate act of democratic citizenship. For literally centuries, extending the franchise was the great democratic project. ‘Free and fair elections’ remain among its greatest contemporary aspirations. An inclusive franchise and regular elections are rightly regarded as sine qua non of liberal democratic politics worldwide.

All of those are undeniably indispensable elements of democratic rule. All of my discussions presuppose them; none of my mechanisms can claim any democratic legitimacy without them. But in such ays on those simple acts of voting and aggregating votes can blind us to important cognitive processes that precede and shape those ultimate political acts. …

Here I shall try to refocus democratic theory, at least in part, on processes preceding the vote. More unconventionally still, I shall be concerned primarily with the processes that occur within the heads of individual voters, rather than within the formally political realm. Various elements of the democratic process (free speech, free association, free entry of new parties, and such like) have always been regarded as essential elements of the democratic competition. What are less often noticed, and to which I shall here direct most of my attention, are the more ‘internal reflective’ concomitants of democratic political discussions. [11]

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  1. PeterM says:

    As Deutsch says, this is the equivalent of empiricism: we simply shouldn’t be concerned much with the inputs—unless they are of the bad explanation type, in which case they should be abandoned or removed, sometimes even dismissed out of hand (cf. “A theory’s mark of Cain”).

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