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This chapter considers the question of what sort of state and government we should have. A common assumption is that only a democracy is ever fully justifiable. Anything else — a tyranny, an aristocracy, an absolute monarchy — lacks justification. But what is a democracy? Is it really so attractive? The chapter explores some of the most fundamental problems in formulating democratic theory before looking at arguments for and against democracy itself. It first examines the tension between the idea of democracy as a system of ‘majority rule’, and the idea of democratic ‘consideration for individuals’. It then analyses Plato's arguments against democracy, focusing on his use of the so-called craft analogy to defend his position, along with his concept of guardianship. It also discusses Jean-Jacques Rousseau's notion of the general will and concludes with an overview of representative democracy.

Chapter

This chapter examines the claim that democracy is the ideal form of political obligation. It first traces the historical evolution of the term ‘democracy’ before discussing the debate between advocates of the protective theory and the participatory theory of democracy, asking whether it is possible to reconcile elitism with democracy and whether participatory democracy is politically realistic. The chapter proceeds to explain why democracy is viewed as the major grounding for political obligation, with emphasis on the problem of majority rule and what to do with the minority consequences of majoritarianism. It documents the contemporary malaise experienced by democracy and seeks to explain its perceived weaknesses as a form of rule. Finally, the chapter describes the new directions that democratic theory has taken in recent years, focusing on four theories: associative democracy, cosmopolitan democracy, deliberative democracy, and ecological democracy.