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Reading: Justifying Democracy—Proceduralism versus Instrumentalism


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Justifying Democracy—Proceduralism versus Instrumentalism


Keren Bester

About Keren
M.Sc. Philosophy and Public Policy
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The political legitimacy of democracy is concerned with reconciling inequality of political power with the fundamental equality of persons. Justifications are made by appealing either to the outcomes of the decision-making procedure or to a feature of the procedure that is said to be inherently fair. Pure instrumentalists assert that the only justification for democracy is that it produces better outcomes. In contrast, pure proceduralists argue for inherent fairness. Mixed accounts argue that the justification must include a balance of the two. Comparing the pure instrumentalism of Richard Arneson with Allen Buchanan’s mixed approach, I aim to show that a justification of democracy requires some account of procedural fairness. While both theorists agree that individual rights fulfilment is the moral aim of a legitimate government they place very different degrees of emphasis on equality. I argue that without a more robust account of the importance of equality, Arneson’s pure instrumentalism falls short of providing a full justification for power inequality, while Buchanan is more thorough and more successful.

How to Cite: Bester, K., 2010. Justifying Democracy—Proceduralism versus Instrumentalism. Rerum Causae, 2(1), pp.33–42.
Published on 01 Jan 2010.
Peer Reviewed


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