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Book Sections Year : 2018

Challenges of Inequality to Democracy

Richard Bellamy
  • Function : Author
Rajeev Bhargava
  • Function : Author
Juliana Bidadanure
  • Function : Author
Thomas Christiano
  • Function : Author
Ulrike Felt
  • Function : Author
Lily Lamboy
  • Function : Author
Thamy Pogrebinschi
  • Function : Author
Graham Smith
Gayil Talshir
  • Function : Author
Nadia Urbinati
  • Function : Author


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.
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hal-02286209 , version 1 (13-09-2019)



Richard Bellamy, Rajeev Bhargava, Colin Hay, Juliana Bidadanure, Thomas Christiano, et al.. Challenges of Inequality to Democracy. International Panel on Social Progress (IPSP). Political Regulation, Governance, and Societal Transformations, Cambridge University Press, pp.563 - 596, 2018, 9781108399647. ⟨hal-02286209⟩
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