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Gutmann. 1993. Democracy. In A Companion to Contemporary Political Philosophy, ed. Goodin and Pettit. Oxford: Blackwell..
Answers range from (narrow) majoritarianism to (broad) social ideals.
Democracy assumes that people "need a process for arriving at binding decisions that takes everybody's interests into account" (411).
A procedural minimalist approach, which, although it makes it easier to classify what is a democracy and what isn't, also leaves us with little reason to care whether we're a democracy because it takes out the ideals. Democracy can exist even with a brutal regime (quoting Dahl here). Schumpeterianism makes plain the "importance of understanding democracy as more than a mere political procedure" (412).
Besides the importance of Schumpeter's procedures, there is also value in ensuring that rule is popularly based. Thus, to be sure that democratic decisions actually reflect the will of the people, democracy should protect free speech, the rule of law, full enfranchisement, and so forth. Problem: some important constraints, such as independent judicial review, have no place in a truly populist democracy.
Popular rule isn't the supreme value; protecting liberties is, especially liberties such as in Rawls's Theory of Justice (1971): speech, though, press, religion, property, vote, hold office, freedom from arbitrary arrest/seizure, and so on. This leaves room for judicial review, checks and balances, and so on to calm the popular will.
Populist and liberal democracy aren't all that different. Populists also want to protect enough liberties to ensure continued populist democracy. Where they might conflict is on issues of "rights" that aren't necessary for political expression. E.g.: hard-core porn. Populist democrats would say it isn't necessary, and thus can be subjected to community standards legislation. Liberal democrats say protecting all speech is vital. Populist democrats would denounce this as minority (rather than majority) rule. Liberal democrats would raise fear of a slippery slope--unbased fears in many democracies, because the populist democrats wouldn't want a true erosion of political freedoms.
Giving people freedom to voice their opinions is unimportant if nobody cares. What needs attention is educating people about politics and involving them in it. Participation is necessary to prevent the abuse of power.
"Social democracy extends the logic of liberal democracy to realms that traditional liberals considered private and therefore not subject to democratic principles," like firms and families, motivated by a need for "avoidance of the tyrannical threat over individual lives that accompanies concentrations of power" (416). This means giving workers a voice in firms or putting the democratic state in a position to powerfully regulate firms. In families, it means not only state control of education, but also subsidized child care to keep men from "tyrannically" keeping women in the home.
An integration of populist and liberal ideas. What's important is less popular rule than that people participate in the democratic process by means of argument, evidence, and persuasion of others. This creates a division of labor of sorts: politicians make laws, citizens influence them through the public deliberation.
People are likely to disagree, even if they all have good intentions. Yet deliberation can, in the end, lead to "more justifiable public policies" (420)
Research on similar subjects
Gutmann, Amy (author) • Comparative Politics • Democracy • Defining Democracy
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