The Democratic Minimum: Is Democracy a Means to Global Justice? [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 19.1 (Spring 2005)

March 30, 2005

I argue that transnational democracy provides the basis for a solution to the problem of the “democratic circle”—that in order for democracy to promote justice, it must already be just—at the international level. Transnational democracy could be a means to global justice. First, I briefly recount my argument for the “democratic minimum.” This minimum is freedom from domination, understood in a very specific sense. Employing Hannah Arendt’s conception of freedom as “the capacity to begin,” the form of nondomination sufficient for the democratic minimum is the capability to initiate deliberation and thus democratic decision-making processes. My point in developing this argument further concerns the political form of a transnational polity: its citizens enjoy the democratic minimum as members of various demoi. In the case of the European Union, this leads to a potential for democratic domination. I call this the demoi problem, a difficulty that holds for any multilevel polity, for bounded as well as transnational political communities. Second, I argue that such domination is overcome so long as the capacity to initiate deliberation is distributed among various units and various levels. The democratic minimum could fail to obtain not only because individuals or groups are dominated by nondemocratic means, but also because they are dominated democratically to the extent that the demos of one unit lacks the normative power to initiate deliberation and thus is subordinated to others.


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