Should We Be Utopophobes About Democracy in Particular?

Political Studies Review 10 (1):36-47 (2012)

Patrick Tomlin
University of Warwick
In his book Democratic Authority, David Estlund puts forward a case for democracy, which he labels epistemic proceduralism, that relies on democracy's ability to produce good – that is, substantively just – results. Alongside this case for democracy Estlund attacks what he labels ‘utopophobia’, an aversion to idealistic political theory. In this article I make two points. The first is a general point about what the correct level of ‘idealisation’ is in political theory. Various debates are emerging on this question and, to the extent that they are focused on ‘political theory’ as a whole, I argue, they are flawed. This is because there are different kinds of political concept, and they require different kinds of ideal. My second point is about democracy in particular. If we understand democracy as Estlund does, then we should see it as a problem-solving concept – the problem being that we need coercive institutions and rules, but we do not know what justice requires. As democracy is a response to a problem, we should not allow our theories of it, even at the ideal level, to be too idealised – they must be embedded in the nature of the problem they are to solve, and the beings that have it.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,379
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Ideal Vs. Non‐Ideal Theory: A Conceptual Map.Laura Valentini - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (9):654-664.
Feasibility Four Ways.Alan Hamlin - 2017 - Social Philosophy and Policy 34 (1):209-231.
Political Irrationality, Utopianism, and Democratic Theory.Aaron Ancell - 2020 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 19 (1):3-21.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Liberal Democracy and Political Islam: The Search for Common Ground.Mostapha Benhenda - 2011 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 10 (1):88-115.
Human Rights Do Not Make Global Democracy.Eva Erman - 2011 - Contemporary Political Theory 10 (4):463.
The Value Theory of Democracy.Corey Brettschneider - 2006 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 5 (3):259-278.
Political Legitimacy, the Egalitarian Challenge, and Democracy.Dean J. Machin - 2012 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 29 (2):101-117.


Added to PP index

Total views
42 ( #271,936 of 2,519,659 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #406,756 of 2,519,659 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes