Philosophy and Social Criticism 43 (7):724-747 (2017)

Recent years have witnessed an explosion of debate re what democratic theory has to say about the boundaries of democratic peoples. Yet the debate over the ‘democratic boundary problem’ has been hindered by the way contributors work with different understandings of democracy, of democratic legitimacy and of what it means to participate in a demos. My argument is that these conceptual issues can be clarified if we recognize that the ‘demos’ constitutive of democracy is essentially dual in character: it must be defined from a third-person, observer’s perspective from which it can be represented as a whole entity; but it must also be seen as arising out of an association of numerous and ongoing second-person relationships that participants negotiate among one another. Both perspectives are essential to conceptualizing the demos, but their relation to each other has been obscured by democratic theory’s historical reliance on the imaginary of the sovereign state. Drawing on literature from deliberative democratic theory, this article reconstructs the concept of the demos in a way that better distinguishes the logic of democracy from the logic of the state, allowing us to think more clearly about how demotic boundaries may be subjected to standards of democratic legitimation.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453716658691
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